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In the realm of artificial intelligence, especially within the domains of natural language processing (NLP) and generative models, Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) has emerged as a cutting-edge technique that significantly enhances the capabilities of AI systems. By combining the strengths of retrieval-based models and generative models, RAG represents a hybrid approach that addresses some of the fundamental challenges in generating accurate, contextually relevant, and informative responses.

Understanding Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG)

The Basics of RAG

Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) is a framework that integrates two distinct yet complementary AI methodologies: retrieval-based models and generative models.

  1. Retrieval-Based Models: These models excel in fetching relevant information from a large corpus of data. Given a query, a retrieval-based model searches through a database to find documents or passages that are most pertinent to the query.
  2. Generative Models: These models, often based on transformer architectures like GPT-3, are designed to generate coherent and contextually appropriate text. They are capable of producing novel content based on the input they receive.

RAG combines these two approaches by first retrieving relevant documents or passages from a large dataset and then using this retrieved information to inform and enhance the generation of responses.

How RAG Works

The RAG framework typically involves the following steps:

  1. Query Processing: When a query is received, the retrieval component of the RAG model searches a pre-indexed database to find the most relevant documents or passages.
  2. Contextual Embedding: The retrieved documents are then converted into embeddings, which are vector representations that capture the semantic meaning of the text.
  3. Response Generation: The generative model takes the original query along with the embeddings of the retrieved documents to generate a response. This process ensures that the generated text is not only coherent but also enriched with accurate and relevant information.
How RAG Works

Advantages of RAG

Enhanced Accuracy and Relevance

By leveraging both retrieval and generation, RAG ensures that responses are grounded in actual data, thereby enhancing their accuracy and relevance. This is particularly useful in scenarios where the generative model alone might produce plausible but incorrect or irrelevant information.

Improved Contextual Understanding

RAG can handle complex queries more effectively by accessing a vast amount of contextual information through retrieval. This allows the model to generate responses that are more nuanced and contextually appropriate.


The retrieval component enables RAG to scale effectively, as it can draw upon extensive databases without compromising the quality of the generated responses. This makes RAG suitable for applications that require processing large volumes of information.

Applications of RAG

Knowledge Management Systems

RAG is highly effective in knowledge management systems, where it can retrieve and generate detailed responses based on a company’s extensive documentation and knowledge base. This ensures that users receive precise and comprehensive answers to their queries.

Customer Support

In customer support, RAG can provide accurate and contextually relevant responses by retrieving information from a company’s FAQ database or support documentation. This enhances the customer experience by delivering timely and informative support.

Content Generation

For content generation tasks, RAG can create articles, reports, and other textual content that are enriched with accurate information retrieved from relevant sources. This is particularly useful in fields like journalism, where factual accuracy is paramount.

Educational Tools

In educational tools, RAG can assist in generating informative and contextually rich content for students. By accessing a vast repository of educational materials, it can provide detailed explanations and answers to students’ questions.

Implementing RAG with TiDB Vector Search

TiDB, an open-source distributed SQL database, offers a vector search feature that can be effectively utilized in implementing RAG. Here’s a brief overview of how TiDB can support RAG:

Vector Search in TiDB

TiDB’s vector search allows for semantic searches by representing data as points in a multidimensional space. This capability is crucial for the retrieval component of RAG, as it enables the efficient retrieval of relevant documents based on their semantic similarity to the query.

Integration with RAG

By integrating TiDB’s vector search with a generative model, you can create a RAG system that retrieves and generates responses with high accuracy and relevance. TiDB’s robust data management capabilities ensure that the retrieval process is efficient and scalable, while the generative model produces coherent and contextually appropriate text.

Example Workflow

  1. Data Ingestion: Store a large corpus of documents in TiDB with vector embeddings for each document.
  2. Query Processing: When a query is received, use TiDB’s vector search to retrieve the most semantically similar documents.
  3. Embedding Generation: Convert the retrieved documents into embeddings.
  4. Response Generation: Use a generative model to produce a response based on the query and the embeddings of the retrieved documents.

Demo for RAG

There are some demos that you can run to learn what RAG is, and learn what role of vector database play in the RAG scenario:

Advanced Demos for GraphRAG – Knowledge Graph based RAG

  • GraphRAG: 20 lines code of using TiDB Serverless to build a Knowledge Graph based RAG application.
  • GraphRAG Step by Step Tutorial: Step by step tutorial to build a Knowledge Graph based RAG application with Colab notebook. In this tutorial, you will learn how to extract knowledge from a text corpus, build a Knowledge Graph, store the Knowledge Graph in TiDB Serverless, and search from the Knowledge Graph.


Retrieval Augmented Generation (RAG) represents a significant advancement in AI, combining the strengths of retrieval-based models and generative models to produce highly accurate, relevant, and contextually appropriate responses. With the integration of TiDB’s vector search capabilities, implementing a robust and scalable RAG system is more accessible than ever. As AI continues to evolve, frameworks like RAG will play a crucial role in enhancing the accuracy and effectiveness of AI-driven applications across various domains.

Last updated June 4, 2024

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