CS 5/662, Winter 2021

HW5: Critical Reading of Popular Press


This assignment is based on one originally developed by Emily Bender as part of Ling/CSE 472: Introduction to Computational Linguistics at the University of Washington (used with permission of the original author), and has been lightly modified.

In this assignment, you will be doing a critical reading of a popular press article on some particular piece of language technology. The instructions are as follows:


  1. What is the title, author, date, publication venue (i.e., what newspaper, magazine, website, etc.) and URL of the article?
  2. Briefly summarize the article: What is the technology described? What is the article’s main thesis about the technology, and/or what key ideas does the author want the reader to come away with?
  3. What is the primary source the article is relying on in its description of the technology? Is it an academic paper, a press release, a blog post, an interview with a relevant expert, something else entirely, etc.?
    • Can you get access to that primary source? If so, read it and also provide the URL.
      • If the primary source is in a journal that we do not have access to, remember from week 3 that the OHSU Library can get you any article you need for free via inter-library loan.
    • How do the claims in the popular press article relate to what’s claimed in the primary source? Are they the same, less hedged, a subset, etc.?
    • If you can consult the primary source, does it involve experimental work (i.e., a careful evaluation conducted as described in week 3)?
    • Regardless of whether you can consult the primary source, can you tell from the popular press article what kind of evaluation was carried out? If so, briefly describe the evaluation (test data, metrics, baseline) to the extent that you can. If not, what kind of evaluation would be appropriate for the technology?
  4. How does the headline relate to the body of the popular press article? If someone were to only read the headline, how would the beliefs they formed about the technology being discussed relate to what they would believe if they had read the full article?
  5. Based on your comparison to the primary source and/or your sense of the state of the art in the field, what are some limitations of the technology that are not apparent in the popular press article?
  6. Thinking of yourself as the reader, in what ways does the article accurately portray the technology described? In what ways is it misleading?
  7. Thinking of someone without any training in linguistics, computer science, or computational linguistics as the reader, in what ways does the article accurately portray the technology described? In what ways is it misleading?
  8. Imagine you were posting the article you picked on social media or otherwise sharing it with friends who don’t have your training and scholarly background. Write the post you would use to contextualize it for them.
    • The shape of this post will vary according to whether the purpose of the post is to share the information in the article, but with additional context (i.e., you think the article is fundamentally interesting or worthwhile), or if the purpose of the post is to warn your friends about misleading articles.
    • Either one is OK, but it should be clear from how you wrote it which it is.
assignment index