LIBR 202-11
LIBR 202-16
Information Retrieval
Spring 2011 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 class, with three synchronous/asynchronous Elluminate sessions.  Registered students will receive an access code through in mid-January and must self enroll in the course on ANGEL before the first day of class.  The course site will open approximately a week before class begins so students can get acquainted on ANGEL.

Course Description

General Description
Principles of information retrieval and their application to information systems and services. Emphasizing models of user information seeking behavior, human information processing and their relationship to retrieval models in information systems.
Note: Effective Spring 2009, must be completed with a grade of B or better. If the grade is B- or lower, students must repeat the class.

Section specific 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 everyday life as well as library science. Though library applications form the backbone of our study, 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 interact to meet the needs of the user. First we look at data structures, and how information can be broken down and manipulated. Next we look at how language works in information retrieval, both through natural language and structured vocabularies.  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 team work and class participation. Students are expected to share ideas and real life experience as they apply to the principles we study. Students must be prepared to  participate actively in team work and ANGEL discussion forums. Class participation is part of the final grade.

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 familiar 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

General Expectations
Course work consists of written lectures, Elluminate presentations, readings, online discussions, two big assignments, several smaller assignments, and a midterm quiz. Though the class is designed to support a variety of learning styles, collaboration and sharing ideas is a requirement.

Students must be comfortable with technology, in particular, Elluminate, DBTextWorks,  ANGEL, Microsoft Word, and Excel. APA style is required for the final assignment.

Students must be willing to work in teams and to take responsibility as a team member. Students 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 except in extreme cases, and always with prior  consent of the instructor.


  1. Information Retrieval from the User’s Perspective. (5 points) This team exercise at the beginning of class gives students the opportunity to experience information retrieval as a user would, without the fore-knowledge of the principles we learn during the semester.
  2. Analyzing data. (5 points). Students will analyze a small collection of images and create a table of attributes and values.
  3. Data structures. (10 points) Students will create a simple data structure based on the table of attributes and values from the previous assignment.
  4. Database. (30 points) Students will design and create a database including data structures, rules for data entry and indexing, as well as practice with controlled vocabulary and natural language descriptors. Emphasis will be on designing a database suited to the needs of a defined user group.
  5. Evaluating an Information Retrieval System. (30 points)  Students make an in depth study of an existing information system and based on all the material  we’ve learned in class. The paper will consist of description, analysis, comparison and usability testing of an information system of the students' choice.


  • Midterm. (15 points)  This midterm quiz helps the instructor access students' understanding of terms and concepts learned in the first half of the course.
  • Participation. (5 points). Students will be graded on participation in ANGEL discussions forums.
  • Extra Credit. Several opportunities throughout the semester will be announced in class.

Elluminate Sessions
There will be three Elluminate sessions. Live attendance is recommended but not required. All sessions will be recorded and archived on the course site for later review. Unless otherwise stated, Elluminate sessions will take place on Sunday afternoons at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Tentative schedule:

  • Sunday, January 30, 5 p.m. - Course orientation.
  • Sunday, March 20, 5 p.m. - Midterm review
  • Sunday, May 15, 5 p.m. -Office hours, opportunity for Q&A. No presentatin

Other Requirements

  • Graduate level writing skills
  • Access to a brick and mortar library
  • Reliable internet connection
  • Computer literacy.

Course Calendar
Our course week will run Sunday  through Saturday. Lessons for each will appear on the ANGEL site by Sunday noon. Unless otherwise stated, assignments are due Saturdays at 11:59 p.m., Pacific time. 

Dates may change slightly based on class needs.

January 26-29
Course introductions and assignments

Post introductions on ANGEL

Team introductions

Begin Assignment 1

January 30 - February 5


Introduction to Information Retrieval Elluminate, January 30

Team contact list due February 5
February 6-12
The Nature of Information

Assignment 1 due February 12
Begin Assignment 2

February 13-19
Access to Information Assignment 2 due February 19
February 20-26
Data Structures and Databases  Begin assignment 3
February 27-March 5
Controlled Vocabulary  Assignment 3
March 6-12
 Library Applications in Information Retrieval Assignment 3 due March 12
March 13-19
Midterm Review   
March 20-26

Elluminate,March 20
Midterm due March 26

Introduce Assignments 4 and 5


March 27-April 2

April 3-9
Working with DBTextWorks Assignment 4

Assignment 5
April 10-16
Searching Assignment 4

Assignment 5
April 17-23
User Behavior Assignment 4

Assignment 5
April 24-30
Evaluating Information Retrieval Systems Assignment 4

Assignment 5
May 1-7
Catch Up - no new material Assignment 4 due May 7

Assignment 5
May 8-14
Trends in Information Retrieval  Extra credit opportunity

Assignment 5
May 15-17
Wrap-up Elluminate May 15

Assignment 5 due May 17


Participation  5
Group contact list required but not graded
ANGEL introduction required but not graded
Assignment 1 (Team)- Information retrieval from a user perspective 5
Assignment 2 - Analyzing data 5
Assignment 3 - Data structures 10
Assignment 4 - Database 30
Assignment 5 - Evaluation of Information System 30
Midterm 15
Extra credit opportunities to be announced in class  

Textbooks and Readings

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:

  • 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

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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