Speech and Language Processing Prelim

The purpose of the Speech and Language Processing Preliminary Examination is to give students an opportunity to demonstrate their ability to analyze, evaluate, and present a pre-existing body of specific research in the area of human language technology. Examples of areas of research that fall within this field include, but are not limited to, the following topics: speech recognition and synthesis, computational linguistics, natural language processing, and information retrieval. The specific topic area of the examination is expected to fall within within one of these areas.

The prelim consists of the following components:

Successful completion of this examination satisfies the Area Exam portion of the Computer Science department's Preliminary Examination requirement.


Typical preparation for the SLP Prelim consists of CSCI 5832 Natural Language Processing and one other SLP-related course. Recommended follow-on courses to CSCI 5832 include CSCI 6302 Speech Recognition and Synthesis, CSCI 7000/LING 7800 Advanced Computational Linguistics or CSCI 5622 Machine Learning. Other follow-on courses may be acceptable based on future course offerings and individual student concerns.

Note that while these courses are strongly recommended as preparation for the SLP Prelim, students with transfer courses, or other kinds of preparation, may well be ready to take the prelim without taking these courses.


Students will first identify a potential topic area, as well as a Computer Science SLP faculty member who must agree to review and approve the topic. The student and this faculty member jointly select the papers to be reviewed.

A 1-page written proposal that describes the topic area, specifies the approving SLP faculty member, and lists the technical papers to be reviewed is then submitted to the SLP Prelim Chair for consideration and approval early in the semester in which the exam is to be taken. Once the SLP Prelim Chair has approved both the topic area and the selected papers, the student has exactly 30 calendar days to prepare the review of the selected papers.

The student may consult relevant faculty members with specific questions concerning the content of the individual papers, but cannot solicit or receive assistance of any kind on the overall analysis of the papers.

Copies of the completed review will then be delivered via both hard-copy and pdf to the SLP prelim committee on or before the end of the 30 day period. Students may not submit preliminary drafts to any member of the committee for review.

The formal presentation will be held within six weeks of the submission of the paper. Given that three faculty schedules need to be coordinated, arrangements to schedule the date of the oral exam should begin as early in the semester as possible. Scheduling the presentation is the student's responsibility.

At the formal presentation students are expected to present the content of their review as they would at a technical conference. The committee's evaluation is based on the technical content, presentation style, and command of the area. Although fluency in English is not a requirement, students must be capable of clearly conveying the material orally. The presentation should be roughly 30 minutes in length. Students are strongly encouraged to make practice runs of their presentation to their peers, research associates and faculty members who are not participating in the SLP Prelim.


The subject area of the review paper may well correspond closely to a student's current area of research and planned thesis work. As such, it may overlap with a planned, or in progress, literature review section of a thesis proposal. This is explicitly permitted.

Prior conference papers, journal articles, masters theses, and class projects cannot be submitted verbatim as a substitute for the SLP Prelim paper. However, portions of such prior written work on which the student is the sole author may be re-used as the basis for part of the SLP paper. Use of material where the student is one of several authors must be negotiated between the student and the SLP faculty sponsor prior to the examination.

SLP Faculty

At the current time, the core CS faculty in the area of speech and language processing are Professors James Martin and Martha Palmer. Professors Michael Mozer and Tammy Sumner have research interests that overlap with this area and in consultation with the SLP Prelim chair can approve SLP prelim topics.

Professor James Martin will serve as the chair of the SLP prelim during the next academic year.