STATS 319: Literature of Statistics

Dennis Sun, Stanford University, Spring 2023

Course Info

  • Professor: Dennis Sun (dlsun@stanford)
    • Office: Sequoia 124
    • Office Hours: Tuesdays 3:30 - 4:30 PM
  • Meetings: Wed 3 - 4:20 PM in Econ 139
  • Course Website:

Course Description

STATS 319 is designed to give Statistics Ph.D. students practice in reading academic papers and delivering presentations.

This quarter, the theme is "Controversies in Statistics". We will examine controversies, past and present, in the theory and application of statistics. The goal of this course is to help you understand the intellectual tradition and community of which you are now a part. Knowledge of material in STATS 300A is necessary for this class.

For some of the topics, there is the potential to produce an original synthesis of the literature. For example, the historical topics could make for a nice paper in the "History Corner" of The American Statistician. Please talk to me if you are interested.

General Reading


Reading these articles is essential if you want to follow the discussions this quarter. You should be familiar with most of the ideas from STATS 300A, so feel free to skim.


Tips on Presentations


You are expected to read multiple papers representing different sides of each controversy, explain each side's argument, and take a side. For some of the controversies, I only provided one survey paper, so you need to seek out the references and read some of those papers.

Week Topic Presenter Papers
1 Fisher/Pearson Chi-Square Controversy Dennis Sun
2 Thinking about Your Career Dennis Sun
3 Rubin/Pearl Approaches to Causal Inference Xavier Gonzalez
4 Berkeley/Stanford Joint Colloquium (at Berkeley) Tselil Schramm
5 Breiman's Two Cultures Debolina Paul
6 Conditional Inference Anav Sood Ghosh, M., N. Reid, and D. A. S. Fraser. "Ancillary Statistics: A Review." Statistica Sinica 20, no. 4 (2010): 1309–32.
7 Frequentist vs. Bayes Sophia Lu
8 Fiducial Inference Tim Sudijono Zabell, Sandy L. "RA Fisher and fiducial argument." Statistical Science (1992): 369-387.
9 Ecological Inference John Cherian
10 Simulation-Based Inference for Teaching Statistics Will Hartog

Other Topics

Week Topic Presenter Papers
Neyman/Fisher Controversy
Countable vs. Finite Additivity Williamson, Jon. "Countable Additivity and Subjective Probability." The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50, no. 3 (1999): 401–16.
Likelihood Principle
The Bible Code

If you would prefer to do your talk on a different controversy in statistics, please come talk to me.


This class is graded S/NC. To earn a Satisfactory grade, the following are required:

  • Give a 50-minute presentation on one of the topics.
  • Attend all of the class sessions and participate in the discussions.
  • For two presentations, write an e-mail with 1-2 paragraphs to the presenter with peer feedback. Please CC Dennis so that you can get credit.

Note that the class session in Week 4 (April 26) coincides with the Berkeley/Stanford Joint Colloquium, so class is canceled. You should attend the colloquium instead.