Ling40S: Lab in Scientific and Critical Thinking


Course Info

Instructor Masoud Jasbi Details 2-4 Units Tuesdays and Thursdays
Office Hours: By appointment via email. 3:00-4:20pm
Room 122, Margaret Jacks Hall (Bldg. 460) 420-050 (Jordan Hall)

You can see the course notes here.


Week Month Date Topic Reading Assignments
1 June 27 Introduction to Critical Thinking and the Scientific Method
29 Introduction to Argument Mapping & Discussion Practicum: What is Language? Paul Bloom's Lecture at Yale (2008): How We Communicate | Lecture Video
2 July 4 Independence Day
6 Discussion Practicum: Do animals have language? Suzuki, Wheatcroft & Griesser (2016): Experimental evidence for compositional syntax in bird calls | News Article 1 | News Article 2 Argument Map 1
3 11 Observations, Measurements, and Experiments Stevens (1946): On the Theory of Scales of Measurment Proposal Draft
13 Discussion Practicum: Language Learning in Children Saffran, Aslin, & Newport (1996): Statistical Learning by 8-Month-Old Infants Argument Map 2
4 18 Validity, Reliability, and Reproducability Drost (2011): Validity and Reliability in Social Science Research
20 Discussion Practicum: Language and Health Turnwald et al (2017): Reading Between the Menu Lines: Are Restaurants' Descriptions of "Healthy" Foods Unappealing? Argument Map 3
5 25 Inference, logical reasoning, and Inferential Biases Proposal Abstract
27 Discussion Practicum: Word Learning in Animals Kaminsky et al (2004): Word Learning in a Domestic Dog | Optional: Kay & Kempton (1984): What is the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis? Argument Map 4
6 August 1 Language and Critical Thinking
3 Discussion Practicum: Peer-Reviewing Assigned Abstract Peer-Reviews
7 8 Language and Critical Thinking
10 Discussion Practicum: Does Language Shape Thought? Frank et al (2008): Number as a cognitive technology: Evidence from Pirahã language and cognition | Thibodeau & Boroditsky (2015): Metaphors Affect Reasoning Argument Map 5
8 15 The Ethics of Critical Thinking and Scientific Research
17 Discussion Practicum: Final Presentations Q&A Feedback Presentations

Course Description

This course introduces students to the basics of critical thinking and the scientific method and provides a venue to apply these skills to linguistic research. We discuss the following questions: what is language? Do animals have it? How did humans begin to talk? How do children learn to speak? In discussing these questions, we cover the basics of the scientific method and critical thinking. Students practice how to read scientific articles, find their main claims, differentiate between factual and theoretical claims, assess the evidence supporting the factual claims, and critically evaluate the arguments. Students practice small scale data collection, hypothesis formation, and hypothesis testing as part of their final project. We discuss the problems that researchers face in each of these phases of research.


Argument Maps 40% 5 one-page argument maps of original scientific papers, each 8% of the overall grade. This article is a good guide on how to approach scientific papers.
Research Project 60%
Proposal Outline 5% In about half a page (~250 words), answer the following questions: 1. What is a question you would like to find an answer to? 2. What are the potential answers? 3. How do you plan to find out which is the correct answer? 4. What do you plan to measure and how? 5. What should the results of your measurements look like for you to reject an answer?
Proposal Abstract 10% Write a 1-page (~500 words) conference proposal abstract on your research question. Your abstract must include your research question, your hypotheses, your methods, results on your pilot study, and some preliminary conclusion. Read Karen Kelsey's tips on writing a conference proposal abstract.
Peer-Reviews 10% Write a 1-page (~500 words) peer-review of a proposal abstract. You will be randomly assigned to a classmate's abstract. Read Brian Lucey's tips on writing peer-reviews.
Presentations 5% Prepare a 10 minute presentation of your research project. The last class will be dedicated to student presentations.
Final Paper 30% Write a 6-page (~3000 words) paper summarizing your research project. (Due: August 20)
Unit Criteria For 2 Units you need to do all the argument maps only. For 3 units you should also develop the project and present it in class but you are not required to write it up as a paper. For 4 units you should do all the assignments.
Late Assignments All deadlines are hard deadlines. No credit will be given for late assignments.
Honor Code We follow Stanford University's Honor Code. You are encouraged to work together and discuss all assignments. However, all assignments must be written up and submitted as the student's own original work.
Students with Documented Disabilities Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 723-1066).