LIBR 285-03
LIBR 285-12
Research Methods in Library and Information Science - Action Research
Summer 2013 Greensheet

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

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D2L Information:Students will be automatically enrolled in the D2L site for this course. The course will be automatically available to students on June 4, 2013.

Course Description

This course examines distinguishing characteristics of action research initiatives that promote positive situational change.  This requires understanding action research philosophy, transformative practices, and learning potential within organizational environments; evaluating, interpreting, and synthesizing scholarly professional literature on action research; and appreciating the enrichment potential of action research for professional practice.

In particular, the curriculum design encourages 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.  

With these aims in mind, the course furthers understanding of:

  • How to recognize and define a research question in the workplace with the aim of improving professional practice;
  • How to use a cyclical plan-act-observe-reflect process to increase domain knowledge and generate professional insight; and
  • How to create an action research study proposal that anticipates project elements and furthers learning outcomes.

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 Requirements

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 respond daily to participants’ communications before assuming her (Monday through Friday) workweek and then, over the weekend, respond more substantively to students’ work.

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.

In addition, it is expected that students will complete the National Institute of Health’s online tutorial titled: “Protecting Human Research Participants (PHRP).” Completion of this material is required by the SJSU Institutional Review Board for all San José State University faculty and students who intend to conduct research with living human subjects. The online tutorial can typically be completed in 2 – 3 hours and is available at: link goes to non-SJSU web site

Course Calendar

Week #1 – June 3 – June 8 – Action Research Introduction

Read: Watson- Boone, R. (2000). Academic librarians as practitioner-researchers. The Journal of Academic Librarianship 26(2), 85-93.

Read: Ferrance, E. Themes in Education: Action Research


McNiff, J. (2002). Action Research for Professional Development: Concise Advice for New Action Researchers. 3rd ed.

Read: Creswell, preface and part 1, chapter 1, xix - 23 and glossary, pp. 241-250

For additional information on action research and research methodology, read:

* McNiff, J. (2000). Action Research in Organisations. London: Routledge.

* McNiff, J., & Whitehead, J. (2010). You and Your Action Research Project, 3rd ed. London: Routledge.

* Somerville, M. M. (2009). Working Together: Collaborative Information Practices for Organizational Learning. Chicago: ACRL.

* Whitehead, J., & McNiff, J. (2006). Action Research Living Theory. London: SAGE.

Note: Asterisk indicates title is available as an e-book in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library collection.

Assignment:  Submit post to discussion forum before midnight PST on Saturday, June 8. Identify a research question (or, alternatively, research topic) and discuss which research approach would be most appropriate (qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods).

Note: Week #1 activities advance Course Learning Outcome #3.

Week #2 – June 9 – June 15 – Action Research Examples

Read one (or more) of these journal articles or read the research report or find other articles more closely aligned with your interests in, for instance, Action Research:

Brown-Sica, M. S. (2012). Library spaces for urban, diverse commuter students: A participatory action research project. College & Research Libraries 73(3, May): 217-231.

Brown-Sica, M., Sobel, K., & Rogers, E. (2010). Participatory action research in learning commons design planning. New Library World 111(7/8): 302-319.

Participatory design in academic libraries: Methods, findings, and implementations, with an introduction by N. F. Foster, 2012. Washington, D. C.: Council on Library and Information Resources.

Somerville, M. M., & Brown-Sica, M. (2011). Space planning: A participatory action research approach. The Electronic Library, 29(5): 669-681.

Read: Creswell, Part 1, chapter 2, pp. 25 - 50

Read:  LIBR 285 Research Proposal Instructions and LIBR 285 Research Proposal Preparation

Assignment: Attend (recommended) Collaborate session on Saturday, June 15, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. PST or, within three days, view recorded session and notify instructor to earn full credit for the course orientation.

Assignment: Discuss the appropriateness of the research method and the research question/focus in one (or more) of the article or report examples above or find other articles more closely aligned with your interests in, for instance, Action Research. Submit post to discussion forum before midnight PST on Saturday, June 15.

Note: Week #2 activities advance Course Learning Outcomes #2.

Week #3 – June 16 – June 22 – Action Research Topic

Read: Creswell, Part I, chapters 3 – 4, pp. 51-104.

Assignment: Submit evidence of NIH PHRP completion to dropbox.

Assignment: Submit research question/topic and 5 bibliographic references (in APA format) to discussion forum before midnight PST on Saturday, June 22.

Assignment: Post a thoughtful response (not just “I agree”) to at least one peer’s post before Wednesday, June 26.

Note: Week #3 activities advance Course Learning Outcome #1 and #4.

Week #4 – June 23 – June 29 – Action Research Considerations

Read: Creswell, Part II, chapters 5, 6, and 7, pp. 105-153.

Note: Week #4 activities advance Course Learning Outcome #3.

Week #5 – June 30 – July 6 – Action Research Design

Read: the portion of Creswell on research methods (Part II, pp. 155-240) that is relevant to your proposal.

Assignment: Submit 10 annotated bibliographic references relevant to research question/topic and/or research method(s) to dropbox before midnight PST on Saturday, July 6.

Note: Week #5 activities advance Course Learning Outcome #2.

Remember: July 4 is a holiday.

Week #6 – July 7 – July 13 – Action Research Proposal Introduction

Assignment: Submit draft introduction section (including background, literature review, and study purpose, research question/hypothesis) to dropbox before midnight PST on Saturday, July 13.

Note: Week #6 activities advance Course Learning Outcomes #2 and #3.

Week #7 – July 14 – July 20 – Research Proposal Refinement

Assignment:  Submit draft research method section (including study participants, data collection, and data analysis) to dropbox before midnight PST on Saturday, July 20.

Note: Week #7 activities advance Course Learning Outcomes #2, #3, and #4.

Week #8 – July 21 – July 27 – Action Research Proposal

Assignment:  Submit draft proposal (title, abstract, introduction, method, and references sections) to dropbox before midnight PST on Saturday, July 27.

Note: Week #8 activities advance Course Learning Outcome #2, #3, and #4.

Week #9 – July 28 – August 3 – Action Research Reflection

Assignment: Submit (no more than 10-page) final proposal to dropbox before midnight PST on Saturday, August 3.

Note: Week #9 activities advance Course Learning Outcomes #2, #3 and #4.

Week #10 – August 4 – August 9 – Action Research Essentials

Assignment: Submit 2-page reflective action research essay to dropbox before midnight PST on Friday, August 9.

Note: Week #10 activities advance Course Learning Outcomes #2 and #3.

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

5 Discussion forum post (research question/interest and research approach)
5 Collaborate session participation (or recorded session viewing)
5 Action research article(s) or report question and methodology discussion
5 NIH PHRP certificate
5 Research question/topic and 5 bibliographic references
2 Peer response to question/topic and bibliographic references post
8 Annotated references relevant to research topic and/or research method(s)
10 Draft introduction section (including background, literature review, and study purpose)
10 Draft research method section (including study participants, data collection, and data analysis)
10 Draft proposal (title, abstract, introduction, method, and references sections)
20 Final research study proposal
15 Action research essay

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

LIBR 200, LIBR 202, LIBR 204

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the difference between primary and secondary research.
  2. Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles and processes of conducting research.
  3. Articulate the research method(s) covered in the course, appropriately apply them, and understand their strengths and liabilities.
  4. Understand appropriate data collection/analysis tools, and ethical concerns related to research.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

LIBR 285 supports the following core competencies:

  1. L Demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods and of the evaluation and synthesis of research literature.


Required Textbooks:

  • Creswell, J. W.(2013). Research design: Qualitiative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). SAGE. Available through Amazon: 1452226105arrow 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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