University of Southern California

CSCI 544 — Applied Natural Language Processing

Spring 2018

Latest Announcements

Time and location Monday 4:00pm–7:50pm, THH 201
Instructor Ron Artstein Monday 2:00pm–3:30pm, RTH 512, or by appointment
Teaching Assistants Ramesh Manuvinakurike Wednesday 11:00am–1:00pm, SAL computer lab
Siddharth Jain Tuesday 8:00am–10:00am, SAL computer lab
Nada Aldarrab Tuesday 4:00pm–5:50pm, SAL computer lab

There will be no office hours on January 15 (Martin Luther King’s Birthday), February 19 (Presidents’ Day), or March 11–18 (Spring Recess).

Administrative Matters

Registration and D-Clearance
Please consult the page on D-clearance and waiting list
If you’ve taken the course before and wish to be considered as a grader, please apply through the Computer Science Department. Graders are usually selected in the first few weeks of the semester.
Students who are absent from class for any reason must make up the materials themselves, and must submit their assignments on time. The final exam will be administered on-line, according to the Final Exam Schedule. University regulations do not allow a student to omit a final examination, or take it in advance of its scheduled time.
Academic integrity
Please read my note on academic integrity.


This course covers both fundamental and cutting-edge topics in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and provides students with hands-on experience in NLP applications.

This graduate course is intended for:

Recommended preparation: Proficiency in programming, algorithms and data structures, basic knowledge of linear algebra and machine learning.

Related Courses

This course is part of USC’s curriculum in natural language processing. There is a sister course, CSCI 662 Advanced Natural Language Processing, offered in the Fall semester, which covers complementary (and advanced) material and is intended for PhD students (or students who want to continue to a PhD program).

Coursework and Grading

Grading scale

The following scale is used for determining final grades (note that A is the highest grade given by USC).

Grade challenges

Late Policy


Please use the class discussion boards on Piazza for questions and issues regarding homework assignments and the course in general. This way, the entire class can participate and see the questions and answers. Email should be reserved for communication of a personal nature. If we receive questions by email where the response could be helpful for the class, we may ask you to repost the question on the discussion boards.

Any special requests must be submitted in writing (I am not able to correctly remember individual conversations with 200 students).

Notes and presentation materials

I usually teach using the blackboard, not with prepared slides. My written lecture plans are fairly skeletal and not very useful to students. I therefore, as a general rule, do not distribute notes or presentation materials to the class. Students are expected to attend the lectures, participate in the discussions, and take notes. Students are welcome to organize for note-taking, and are encouraged to distribute and share notes among students in the class. Any distribution, posting or publication of notes from my lectures outside this class (for example, on a public web site) requires my prior approval.



Note: The weeks of January 15 and February 19 are instructional weeks. Class will not be held on these days because they are university holidays, but work will be assigned for the week and is due at the appropriate time.

Topics listed in the schedule are tentative and subject to change.

Statement on Academic Conduct and Support Systems

Academic Conduct:
Plagiarism – presenting someone else’s ideas as your own, either verbatim or recast in your own words – is a serious academic offense with serious consequences. Please familiarize yourself with the discussion of plagiarism in SCampus in Part B, Section 11, “Behavior Violating University Standards” Other forms of academic dishonesty are equally unacceptable. See additional information in SCampus and university policies on scientific misconduct,

Support Systems:
Student Counseling Services (SCS) – (213) 740-7711 – 24/7 on call
Free and confidential mental health treatment for students, including short-term psychotherapy, group counseling, stress fitness workshops, and crisis intervention.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline - 1-800-273-8255
Provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Services (RSVP) - (213) 740-4900 - 24/7 on call
Free and confidential therapy services, workshops, and training for situations related to gender-based harm.

Sexual Assault Resource Center
For more information about how to get help or help a survivor, rights, reporting options, and additional resources, visit the website:

Office of Equity and Diversity (OED)/Title IX compliance – (213) 740-5086
Works with faculty, staff, visitors, applicants, and students around issues of protected class.

Bias Assessment Response and Support
Incidents of bias, hate crimes and microaggressions need to be reported allowing for appropriate investigation and response.

The Office of Disability Services and Programs
Provides certification for students with disabilities and helps arrange relevant accommodations.

Student Support and Advocacy – (213) 821-4710
Assists students and families in resolving complex issues adversely affecting their success as a student EX: personal, financial, and academic.

Diversity at USC
Information on events, programs and training, the Diversity Task Force (including representatives for each school), chronology, participation, and various resources for students.

USC Emergency Information
Provides safety and other updates, including ways in which instruction will be continued if an officially declared emergency makes travel to campus infeasible,

USC Department of Public Safety – 213-740-4321 (UPC) and 323-442-1000 (HSC) for 24-hour emergency assistance or to report a crime
Provides overall safety to USC community.

USC Viterbi Honor Code

The Code was developed by Viterbi students, and its text is as follows:

Engineering enables and empowers our ambitions and is integral to our identities. In the Viterbi community, accountability is reflected in all our endeavors.

These are the pillars we stand upon as we address the challenges of society and enrich lives.

Academic Integrity Violations

All coding and writing must be done individually (unless instructed otherwise), and not copied from other students. Copying or plagiarism is grounds for failure of an assignment, or in serious cases failure of the course.

Use of the internet or other outside resources to find solutions to homework problems is considered cheating.

Please read my note on academic integrity.