Theory and Practice in Discourse and Dialogue for Interactive Systems
leftside_space.gif (66 bytes)
[ Summary ] [ Requirements ] [ Schedule ] [ Assignments ] [ Bibliography ] [ Resources ] [ Weekly Question Submission ]
Course Requirements

  1. Class attendance and completion of the readings by the assigned date are essential. This is not a straight lecture class - you will be expected to be able to discuss the articles. To this end:
  2. An analytical question for a minimum of two out of the assigned readings (one theory & one practice) must be mailed to the instructors by 5pm on each Tuesday afternoon. These questions will form the basis for discussion.
  3. Each student will lead the discussion of an article once or twice during the semester. Leading the discussion means
    • preparing a handout summarizing the article. This handout is to be sent to the class mailing list by Sunday night at midnight -- in order to serve as a reading guide for the other members of the class. The summary should indicate and explicate the important parts of the article, the problems with the theory espoused or system explained, and the relevance for previous research discussed in class; and

    • delivering an in-class presentation consisting of:
    • (a)  a discussion of an existing conversational/dialogue interactive system that deals with the discourse phenomenon under discussion.  The presentation should include a short description of the system architecture and a discussion of how well or poorly the particular discourse phenomenon in question is treated, and how it might be extended.
      AND / OR
      (b)  your own design sketch of a computational system or application that depends on or exemplifies the phenomenon treated in that week's readings, and leading a discussion in class on that computational system.  A design sketch should present a system of the student's own invention that incorporates the phenomenon under discussion into its functioning. The system can be as fantastical as you desire (and may incorporate *some* elements that are impossible given the state of research today), but the part of the system that uses the class phenomenon should be down-to-earth, possible, and clear. The goal of this exercise is to help the class understand the utility of discourse phenomena for interactive systems, and to understand in a concrete way how to incorporate them into system design.
  4. Students will also take turns leading class discussion on the homework assignments (probably in pairs).
  5. The final assignment will be carried out in teams, and will consist of three parts: 
    1. a working interactive dialogue system, using the CSLU Toolkit, that deals in some way with a discourse phenomenon discussed in class. That is, for example, you might build an interactive system that uses understanding of discourse markers to predict the relationship between two clauses. You must give a demonstration of your system in operation on the final day of class; 
    2. an evaluation of your system with real users
    3. a write-up of the system in ACL paper format ( 

Grading Breakdown:

  • Two class discussion presentations
  • 20% (10% each)
  • Weekly question submission:
  • 10%
  • Transcription Assignment
  • 5%
  • System Implementation & Documentation
  • 25%
  • Final Presentation
  • 5%
  • Final Project Writeup
  • 35%


    Most of the course readings will be available electronically, and linked to the syllabus.   Other readings will be passed out a week in advance. The course books can be purchased from Amazon.

    Various computational linguistics tools will be made available to students, as indicated in the syllabus. Use of these tools will be overseen by Paul (ptepper at-symbol