LIBR 202-05
LIBR 202-16
Information Retrieval
Spring 2009 Greensheet

Nancy MacKay
Office hours: By e-mail
Location: Oakland, California

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
ANGEL Tutorials
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LIBR 202 Resources
Online Resource
Supplemental Readings
Inmagic Download

This is an online only class, with three optional Elluminate sessions. Students must self-enroll in the class January 15-22, 2009. Registered students will receive an access code by email via MySJSU by January 15.  The course site will open approximately January 15 so students can get acquainted before the first day of class.

Course Description

The principles of information organization and retrieval apply to almost every aspect of library and information science, as well as to modern life. This section will take a practical approach to the subject, with an emphasis on applying information retrieval principles to current jobs and real life, as well as library science. Though library applications form the backbone of the class, we will also look at information retrieval in science, business, and other areas of student interest.

We will study the three major components of an information retrieval system and how they relate to each other to meet the needs of the information seeker. First we will look at data structures, and how information can be broken down into parts and  manipulated. Next we will look at the semantic component, how language works naturally, and how it can be structured to maximize information retrieval. Finally we study information retrieval systems from the user point of view by looking at search engines, user interfaces and user behavior.

This section emphasizes group work and class participation. Students should be prepared to share ideas and real life experience as they apply to the principles we study, and to participate actively in group projects.

Course Prerequisites

Course Objectives

  • To design, query, and evaluate a computerized information retrieval system
  • To explain fundamental concepts of information-seeking behavior and employ them in the design and evaluation
  • To understand how natural language is used in search and retrieval, and how search results can be improved by using structured vocabularies.
  • To understand metadata and the importance of standards.  To become famililar with library standards such as the USMARC, LC Classification, and Dublin Core.
  • To understand principles of good interface design and be able to evaluate interfaces using those principles.

LIBR 202 supports the following SLIS Core Competencies:

  • Design, query and evaluate information retrieval systems
  • Understand the system of standards and methods used to control and create information structures and apply basic principles involved in the organization and representation of knowledge
  • Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behavior

Course Requirements

Complete LIBR 203: Online Social Networking: Technology and Tools
This is a mandatory 1 unit course that introduces students to the various e-learning tools used in the SLIS program, including Angel, Elluminate and Second Life. This course must be completed by all new SLIS students within the first 4 weeks of their first semester. If you have questions about this course, e-mail Debbie Faires or Dale David.

For more information, see

General Expectations
Course work will consist of reading, online discussions, four assignments and two exams. Though the class is designed to support a variety of learning styles, collaboration and sharing ideas is a requirement for all coursework.

Students must be willing to work in a group setting and to take responsibility as group members, and must be available to check the course site at least every 48 hours, and during group assignments every 24 hours.

Incompletes will not be given and late assignments are not accepted.

(see calendar below for due date):

  1. Information Retrieval from the User’s Perspective. This group exercise the first week of class gives students the opportunity to experience information retrieval as a user would, without any of the technical knowledge we will gain throughout the semester.

    Students select a topic and search for information a) at a brick and mortar library, b) from a library OPAC or database, c) on the Internet, then analyze the pros and cons of each method. Students will work in groups, compile and discuss results.  Groups will discuss results and submit a single group paper.
  2. Attributes and Values. The purpose of this exercise is to practice describing and analyzing information as single units, and in relation to other information units within a collection. This exercise will introduce students to principles of classification, structured vocabulary, and simple data structures.

    Students will work in groups to analyze a small collection of images. First students will identify attributes of the images. Then they will work with the terminology compiled by the group to formulate a simple structure of records with attributes and values. Students will work as a group, but will turn in individual papers.
  3. Database. The purpose of this exercise is learn how data structures, rules for entering information, indexing, and language all interact to determine information retrieval results. We emphasize the importance of understanding the user group and how to  design with users in mind.

    Students will work in groups to define a user group, develop a data structure, and collect data for a database. Then they will work on their own to create the data structure on paper and on DBTextWorks, input data, and test the results. The paper will consist of the a description of the user group, the data structure, and an analysis of the experience.
  4. Evaluating an Information Retrieval System. The purpose of this exercise is to use all the principles we’ve learned in class to describe, analyze, and evaluate an existing information retrieval system, especially in meeting the needs of its defined user group.

    Students will select a a) library OPAC, b) licensed database, or c) internet-based system for an in depth study. The paper will consist of a 2500-3000 word essay.


  • Midterm. This exam will test the concepts of information retrieval we've learned in the first half of the course. We will have a thorough review the week preceding the exam, with time for student questions, discussions, and examples.
  • Final. This exam will test your ability to evaluate and apply the principles we’ve learned. It will consist of real life situations for which students must evaluate and propose a design. Students will discuss exam questions on ANGEL, but the final exam must be original work.
  • Extra Credit. There will be opportunities to earn extra credit on the exams and in other areas of the class.

Elluminate Sessions
There will be three Elluminate sessions to supplement the online coursework. Attendance is optional and sessions will be recorded and archived on the course site. Sessions will tentatively take place on Sunday afternoons at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Sessions tentatively scheduled as follows:

  • Sunday, January 25, 5 p.m. - course orientation
  • Sunday March 15, 5 p.m. - review for midterm
  • Sunday, May 10, 5 p.m. - Q&A for final or other information retrieval questions

Other Requirements

  • Clear and concise written and communication
  • Access to a brick and mortar library
  • Reliable internet connection and general computer literacy.

Course Calendar
Except for the first week, our course week will run Sunday  through Saturday, Pacific Time. Each week’s lesson will appear on the ANGEL course site early Sunday morning. Most assignments are due Saturday at noon. There will be three optional Elluminate sessions described above.  

Dates may change slightly based on class needs.

Jan 22-24 (Thurs-Sat.) Introduction to the class

Create group contact sheets

Begin Exercise #1

Jan 25-31
Introduction to Information Retrieval Systems

Elluminate, January 25, 5 p.m.- Course orientation

Exercise #1 due January 31

Group contact sheet due January 31

Feb 1-7
The nature of information Begin Exercise #2 February 1
Feb 8-14
Access to information Exercise #2 Pt 1 due February 11
Feb 15-21
Controlled vocabularies Begin Exercise #2 Pt 2 February 15
Feb 22-28
Metadata  Exercise #2 Pt 2 due February 28
March 1-7
March 8-14
Review for midterm  
March 15-21

Elluminate, March 15, 5 p.m.- midterm review

Post midterm March 15 after Elluminate session

Midterm due March 21


March 22-28


Begin Exercise #3

Get familiar with DBTextworks

March 29-April 4
Working with DB/Textworks  
April 5-11


April 12-18

 User behavior  
April 19-25
Evaluating IR Systems

Begin Exercise #4 April 19

Exercise #3 due April 25


April 26-May 2

TBD: Special topics in IR or catch-up week  
May 3-9
Wrap-up and review

 Post final May 3

Exercise #4 due May 9


May 10-13


Elluminate, May 10 - office hours

Final due May 13



Participation  5
Group contact list required but not graded
Blackboard introduction required but not graded
Exercise #1 (Group) 5
Exercise #2 15 (pt.1, 5; pt 2, 10)
Exercise #3 30
Exercise #4 15
Midterm 15
Final 15
XtraCredit Midterm 3
XtraCredit Final 3
XtraCredit Special 3

Textbooks and Readings

Note for Taylor, A. G., & Joudrey, D. N. (2008). Organization of information: If the 3rd edition is not available by the beginning of class, purchase the 2nd edition.

Required Textbooks:

  • Taylor, A. G. & Joudrey, D. N. (2009). Organization of information 3rd ed. Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 159158700X. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Weinberger, D. (2008). Everything is miscellaneous: the power of the new digital disorder. Holt Paperbacks. Available through Amazon: 0805088113. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • American Psychological Association (2001). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.). American Psychological Association. Available through Amazon: 1557987912. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Baca, M. (Ed.). (2008). Introduction to metadata (2nd ed.). Getty Publications. Available through Amazon: 0892368969. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Mann, T. (2005). Oxford Guide to Library Research (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 0195189981. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Taylor, A. G. (2006). Introduction to cataloging and classification (10th ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1591582350. 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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