Follow the Timeline! Generating an Abstractive and Extractive Timeline Summary in Chronological Order

Xiuying Chen, Mingzhe Li, Shen Gao, Zhangming Chan, Dongyan Zhao, Xin Gao, Xiangliang Zhang, Rui Yan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Today, timestamped web documents related to a general news query flood the Internet, and timeline summarization targets this concisely by summarizing the evolution trajectory of events along the timeline. Unlike traditional document summarization, timeline summarization needs to model the time series information of the input events and summarize important events in chronological order. To tackle this challenge, in this article we propose our Unified Timeline Summarizer, which can generate abstractive and extractive timeline summaries in time order. Concretely, in the encoder part, we propose a graph-based event encoder that relates multiple events according to their content dependency and learns a global representation of each event. In the decoder part, to ensure the chronological order of the abstractive summary, we propose to extract the feature of event-level attention in its generation process with sequential information retained and use it to simulate the evolutionary attention of the ground truth summary. The event-level attention can also be used to assist in extracting a summary, where the extracted summary also comes in time sequence. We augment the previous Chinese large-scale timeline summarization dataset and collect a new English timeline dataset. Extensive experiments conducted on these datasets and on the out-of-domain Timeline 17 dataset show that our Unified Timeline Summarizer achieves state-of-The-Art performance in terms of both automatic and human evaluations.1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalACM Transactions on Information Systems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2023


  • abstractive summarization
  • extractive summarization
  • Timeline summarization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Computer Science Applications


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