LIBR 285-02
LIBR 285-11
Research Methods in Library and Information Science
Summer 2010 Greensheet

Mary M. Somerville, MLS, MA, PhD
Office Hours: TBD

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
ANGEL Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

ANGEL Information: The content for this course is managed through the Angel learning management system. Students must self-enroll on Angel before the class start date using the access enrollment code sent by the instructor through My.SJSU.

Course Description

Research methods covering fundamental principles, processes, values and roles of research for professional application in information organizations. Students will become critical consumers of research products and learn the basic skills of planning, designing, executing and reporting research as well as evaluating and applying published research findings. Emphasis will concentrate on developing, planning, and producing a quality research proposal.

Course Prerequisites: LIBR200, LIBR202, LIBR204, and demonstrated writing proficiency required.

285 Waiver Option:
If a student has taken and passed a graduate level-research methods course AND completed a thesis or dissertation as part of a previous graduate degree (as documented by an official transcript), the student can petition the SLIS Graduate Advisor to waive the LIBR 285 requirement. A waiver, if granted, does not reduce the total units required for the MLIS degree. See Waiver option

Course Objectives

Course Goals

  • Understand action research philosophy, transformative practices, and learning potential within organizational environments;
  • Evaluate, interpret, and synthesize scholarly and professional literature on action research within workplace settings; and
  • Appreciate the enrichment potential of action research for professional library, knowledge, and information practice.

Course Objectives
This course examines distinguishing characteristics of action research initiatives that promote situational change. Students explore fundamental principles, processes, values, and roles within workplace contexts. They become critical evaluators of inclusive action research planning, implementation, and evaluation approaches. In particular, the curriculum design prepares students to recognize critical questions for action research initiatives in organizational contexts; involve action research beneficiaries and stakeholders in framing and furthering projects; and recognize appropriate methods for gathering data and generating insights that improve local circumstances.

Student learning outcomes
At the completion of the course, students will be able to:

  • Describe essential action research principles, processes, relationships, and outcomes;
  • Review and interpret action research literature in library and information science and related fields; and
  • Apply essential action research elements to analysis of and planning for ‘real world’ projects.

LIBR 285 supports the following MLIS Core Competencies:

  • Understand the nature of research, research methods and research findings; retrieve, evaluate and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision-making by specific client groups;
  • Articulate the ethics, values and foundational principles of library and information professionals and their role in the promotion of intellectual freedom.

Course Requirements

The course design enables students to first develop an overview of the topic through weekly textbook readings supplemented by research assignments. Then they write a short essay describing and analyzing action research highlights. Next they apply this framework to analysis of an organizational case study. These course requirements intend to develop students’ theoretical understanding and practical readiness. Assignments are completed during a week which begins on a Sunday and concludes on a Saturday. This schedule intends to accommodate students with a variety of work schedules and personal circumstances. In addition, it permits the instructor to provide regular daily attention to participants’ communications throughout her (Monday through Friday) workweek and then, over the weekend, respond more substantively to students’ work. IRB Training Requirement

This schedule assumes that all coursework will be completed by midnight (Pacific Standard Time/PST) on a Saturday due date. ‘Late work’ (submitted after midnight on Saturday PST) will result in a reduction of points earned. 20% of possible points available for each assignment will be deducted for every day that an assignment is submitted past the due date. Students will receive no points for incomplete assignments.

Complete the National Institute of Health’s online workshop titled: “Protecting Human Research Participants (PHRP).” Completion of this workshop is required by all San José State University faculty and students intending to do research with living human subjects. The course can be located at: link goes to non-SJSU web site

Course Calendar

  • Week 1 – June 7 – June 12
    Read: Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching smart people how to learn. Harvard Business Review, May-June, 99-109.
  • Week 2 – June 13 – June 19
    Read: McNiff, Action research in organisations , pages 1-66
    Submit to discussion forum: Question, reference, summary, source, and element
    Attend required Elluminate orientation session on Wednesday, June 16th, 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. PST
  • Week 3 – June 20 – June 26
    Read: McNiff, pages 67-126
    Submit to discussion forum: Question, reference, summary, source, and element
  • Week 4 – June 27 – July 3
    Read: McNiff, pages 127-171
    Submit to discussion forum: Question, reference, summary, source, and element
  • Week 5 – July 4 – July 10
    Read: McNiff, pages 173-258
    Submit to discussion forum: Question, reference, summary, source, and element
  • Week 6 – July 11 – July 17
    Submit to digital dropbox: Essay on essential elements of action research in organizations
    Participate in required Elluminate session: Tuesday, July 13th, from 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. for LIBR 285-02 and Wednesday, July 14th, from 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. for LIBR 285-11
  • Week 7 – July 18 – July 24
    Read: Somerville, Working together: Collaborative information practices for organizational learning
  • Week 8 – July 25 – July 31
    • Argyris, C. (1997). Initiating change that perserveres. The American Behavioral Scientist, 40(3, June), 299-309.
    • Brown, T. (2008). Design thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-92.
    • Kidd, S. A., & Kral, M. J. (2005). Practicing participatory action research. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(2), 187-195.
    • Somerville, M. M., Gaetz, I., & Lee, J. (2010) Rethinking libraries in terms of learning and working collaboratively: An interview with Mary Somerville. Collaborative Librarianship, 2(1), 38-43.
  • Week 9 – August 1 – August 7
    • Checkland, P.B., & Holwell, S. (1998). Action research: its nature and validity. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 11(1), 9-21.
    • Flood, R. L. (1998). Action research and the management and systems sciences. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 11 (1), 79-101.
    • McKay, J., & Marshall, P. (2001). The dual imperatives of action research. Information Technology & People, 14(1), 46-59.
    • Susman, G., & Evered, R. (1978). An assessment of the scientific merits of action research. Administrative Science Quarterly, 23 (4), 582-603.
    Submit to discussion forum: Question, reference, summary, source, and element
  • Week 10 - August 8 – August 12
    Submit to digital dropbox: Final paper analyzing Somerville case study within action research framework

Note: To ensure additional exploration of the action research topics raised in the required reading, students are required to generate a question, reference, summary, source, and element during most weeks of the course. These contributions must be posted in the discussion forum by midnight on Saturday PST. This assignment intends to stimulate broad interest in the field, to generate a list of ‘good sources’ for further information, and to refine action research intentions and interests. The written papers submitted in the digital drop box encourage harvesting sources and insights from these collectively generated information resources.

In this course, the following point system will be used to determine the final grade which is based on a total of 100 points:

  • 50 points Submit question, reference, summary, source, and element (5 assignments x 10 points)
  • 15 points Essay on action research highlights
  • 20 points Essay on Somerville case study
  • 5 points Attendance at first Elluminate session
  • 10 points Participation in second Elluminate session

Textbooks and Readings

Required Textbook:

  • McNiff, J. (2000). Action Research in Organisations. Routledge. Available through Amazon: 0415220130. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Somerville, M. M. (2009). Working together: Collaborative information practices for organizational learning. ACRL. Available through Amazon: 0838985319. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation.  You must repeat the class the following semester. If -on the second attempt- you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU's policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90-5 at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester's Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes.

Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor's permission to record the course and the following items to be included in the syllabus:

  • "Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor's permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material."
    • It is suggested that the syllabus include the instructor's process for granting permission, whether in writing or orally and whether for the whole semester or on a class by class basis.
    • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, permission of those students or guests should be obtained as well.
  • "Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions without instructor consent."

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy F15-7 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

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