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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Computer Science

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

James Allan

Subject Categories

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics | Computer Sciences | Databases and Information Systems | Other Political Science


Seeking information on a controversial topic is often a complex task. Alerting users about controversial search results can encourage critical literacy, promote healthy civic discourse and counteract the "filter bubble" effect, and therefore would be a useful feature in a search engine or browser extension. Additionally, presenting information to the user about the different stances or sides of the debate can help her navigate the landscape of search results beyond a simple "list of 10 links". This thesis has made strides in the emerging niche of controversy detection and analysis. The body of work in this thesis revolves around two themes: computational models of controversy, and controversies occurring in neighborhoods of topics. Our broad contributions are: (1) Presenting a theoretical framework for modeling controversy as contention among populations; (2) Constructing the first automated approach to detecting controversy on the web, using a KNN classifier that maps from the web to similar Wikipedia articles; and (3) Proposing a novel controversy detection in Wikipedia by employing a stacked model using a combination of link structure and similarity. We conclude this work by discussing the challenging technical, societal and ethical implications of this emerging research area and proposing avenues for future work.