There are some specificities of how the bachelor/master thesis works in our group, mainly:

  • the students are an integral part of our group, i.e. participate in the online chat and in the bi-weekly online group meetings (~1 hour Wednesdays) and online standups (10 min. Monday and Friday)
  • the master thesis usually takes about 6 months (it is planned for about 20-24 weeks)
  • once a week the student meets with the mentor (usually a PhD student or postdoc from our group), and keeps a meeting protocol (open questions, next to-dos, etc.)
  • each student presents the results of the work at the group meeting, typically one intermediate presentation (after about 3 months, 10-15 min long, to get feedback), and one final presentation (25-30 min)
  • the working language of our group is English, since most of the scientists are from abroad. That means, the weekly meetings with the mentor are usually in English, and the presentations to the team as well. Ideally, the work is also written in English, so that the students can also get regular feedback from the mentor while writing.

If you are interested in doing your bachelor or master thesis or a study project with us, don’t hesitate to contact either Prof. Flek or the researcher listed at the advertised topic description. Please send your CV, transcript of records, and links to any relevant software projects you worked on, if applicable.

Open Theses Topics

Data Quality Improvement; Evaluate Arguments for Generating Opinionated Sales Conversations

Argumentation and debating are the process of forming reasons that humans engage in. Sales negotiation is one of the conversational activities in which a buyer and a seller communicate reasons to arrive at a satisfactory selection amongst alternatives. In our lab, we have simulated the conversation between the customer and salesperson when they express their own opinions, not only to convince each other but also in order to learn from this negotiation. This preliminary work posed new challenges, such as how to improve the quality of the conversation by identifying stronger arguments. In this work, we are interested in addressing this challenge.

Exploring user context for detecting intended and perceived sarcasm

Sarcasm is a form of irony that occurs when there is a discrepancy between the literal meaning of an utterance and its intended meaning. Existing sarcasm detection systems focus on exploiting linguistic markers, context, or userlevel priors. However, social studies suggest that the relationship between the author and the audience can be equally relevant for the sarcasm usage and interpretation. New sarcasm dataset, focus in both types of sarcam, intended by the author, and perceived by the audience. We want to model different level of informations, text, author, and the audience, in order to explore the affect of these representations on different sarcasm types.

Implicit Hate Speech Detection

Implicit hate speech is defined by coded or indirect language that disparages a person or group on the basis of protected characteristics like race, gender, and cultural identity. Compared to explicit hate speech detection, implicit hate speech contains several challenges for the NLP models. One key challenge, is that implicit hate speech detection does not contain clear lexical flags like profanity or swear-words. In addition, sometimes it might also contain a “positive” sentiment due to linguistic phenomena like sarcasm, humour, euphism etc. In this thesis we would want to address the implicit versus explicit hate speech detection, by comparing the lexical cues used in the text, and also extending with information from a) the author of the hate text, and b) the targe of the hate text.

Augmenting opinion strength classifiers with political radicalism priors trained on social media data

Recent works show that extreme partisans have a similar cognitive profile, showing that partisanship isn’t just a matter of political orientation, but a matter of intensity of one’s beliefs. Similarly, when a person expresses their opinion towards a specific socio-political issue, they can be dogmatic or receptive. Based on these works, we hypothesize that there are common linguistic, psychological and emotional attributes between extreme partisans and users who express their opinions strongly. In order to test our hypothesis, we wish to extract the linguistic attributes that are indicative of extreme or moderate partisanship - regardless of political direction. In turn, by processing the users’ posts on social media, we aim to automatically identify the author’s opinion intensity towards various socio-political issues in a zero-shot scenario.

A poor man’s opinion detection tool, training a model with a handful of data

Opinion detection aims to detect an author’s view towards a certain topic and has become a key component in everyday applications such as fake news detection and argumentation. While state-of-the-art deep learning models are ideal for this problem, they need lots of labeled training data that is often expensive to obtain. In order to reduce data collection costs, we can use few-shot-learning models which are specifically designed for learning with a very small amount of training data. Since most of our data comes from social media, we need a tool that can differentiate useful text from noisy, unopinionated posts. To this end, this thesis aims to develop an opinion detection model that can efficiently differentiate opinionated from non-opinionated text and is trained only on a small amount of data.

Investigating the level of stubbornness regarding sociopolitical views in social media

While social media platforms help to connect people worldwide and give access to enormous amounts of diverse information, they also foster an environment that promotes polarization. This occurs due to the fact that users show a tendency to consume content that aligns with their political leaning and join groups adhering to their beliefs. This phenomenon leads to the formation of segregated clusters, which are known as “echo chambers”. We aim to investigate the opinion formation between different user groups depending on the diversity of information they encounter through their social media usage. This analysis involves clusters formed based on (a) their political ideologies and (b) their tendency to disseminate false information.

Size matters - Data augmentation for stance detection

Data augmentation techniques are used to generate additional, synthetic data using already existing data. While images can be augmented easily by transformations such as rotations or changes of the RGB channel without affecting the classification models, text augmentation is much more difficult because there are no universal rules for automatic textual data transformations that can be applied while maintaining the meaning of the text. Therefore this thesis aims to investigate various natural language generation techniques for paraphrasing opinionated text and evaluate the quality of the generated data on opinion detection.

Banned Books! Investigating Objections to Published Content

This project will investigate the arguments people use to advocate that a book should be banned. This data may come from multiple sources, including social media, and data collected by other researchers. We will look to understand how these complaints relate to or reflect the actual content of books. Optionally, we could examine a broader context of banned books outside the USA. The interested student should have some experience with machine learning or natural language processing.

Chatbots for Better Science

We will work on building a customizable chatbot that can be set up to facilitate conversations about different subjects of interest. We will work with a bioethicist to construct a chatbot that can most effectively carry out this task. The bot will start with a set of rules and we will explore ways to expand upon it’s functionality which may involve the construction of classifiers using machine learning for the purpose of better understanding user values, interests, or questions. The interested student should have some experience with natural language processing and web development.

Ongoing Theses

Bootstrapping Receptive Communities for Classification of Receptive Language

Receptiveness, or how willing someone is to thoughtfully engage with opposing views, is known to contribute to more successful conversational interactions. It is desirable to be able to identify this language automatically in order to analyze and build systems that use this type of language. A few receptiveness classifiers have been built using small existing datasets with receptiveness annotations. Using these, what Reddit communities do we hypothesize will be more or less receptive? What makes them receptive and how do they differ? Leveraging data from receptive communities, we can retrain a receptiveness classifier and evaluate it using annotated data. Additional experiments may include analysis of silver data; annotated by the agreement of multiple classifiers, and the resulting impact on building a new classifier.

Personalized Models for Fake News Detection

Detecting fake news online is an important and timely issue. We are interested in investigating personal differences in how fake news is spread and developing models to detect fake news. Our group has collected data for this task and for thousands of Reddit users. This can be used to test models for personalization from embeddings, language models, priming, or others. These models have been not been used for many downstream applications and we are interested to find out if these can be more widely applied and how performance differs on downstream tasks. Each method requires a different amount of computation and memory so there are trade-offs to consider.

Extending Receptive Text Generation Models for Longer Documents

Receptive communication, or the willingness to engage thoughtfully with opposing views, is important to having cooperative, successful conversations. Our lab has obtained preliminary results on generating paraphrases of text input to create more receptive outputs. This preliminary work was performed on sentences and in this work we are interested in extending this to longer texts or documents. This adds additional challenges through the interplay of sentences conveying different information but sharing the same receptive style.

Controllable Generation Using kNN Language Models

Language modeling forms the foundation of many language processing problems and involves predicting which words come next in a sequence. Recent work on kNN language models has shown improved perplexity by storing encodings of sentence contexts and retrieving similar contexts to alter the probability distribution when predicting the next token(Khandelwal et al. 2020). If we store not only the encoding, but also labeled stylistic attributes of a sentence (e.g.politeness, formality, toxicity), can we use this to control generated language to contain these attributes to higher or lower degrees while preserving fluency? How can these stored attributes and encodings be leveraged most effectively?