INFO 202-01
Information Retrieval System Design
Spring 2017 Syllabus

Dr. Michelle Chen
Office Hours: Virtually, by appointment via e-mail or Blackboard IM. Blackboard Collaborate optional drop-in office hours will also be held as needed. More details TBA on the Canvas course website.

Syllabus Sections
Workload Expectations
Learning Objectives
iSchool Resources
Canvas Login and Tutorials
INFO 202 Resources

WebData Pro Tutorials

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning January 26th, 6 a.m. Pacific Time unless you are taking an intensive or a one unit or two unit class that starts on a different day. In that case the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

You will be enrolled into the Canvas site automatically.

Be sure to logon to the course site no later than Friday, January 27th, to begin the first lesson.

The syllabus may be revised slightly before or during the semester (with fair notice).

Course Description

This course covers the design, querying, and evaluation of information retrieval systems, from web hierarchies to controlled vocabularies.

Course Requirements

Complete INFO 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 iSchool program. For more information, see:

Technology Requirements


Assignment Learning Objectives Portion of
Course Grade
Exercises (in support of the Projects)
  • WebDataPro Orientation
  • Attributes & Simple Data Structures
  • Writing a Rule
  • Basics of Vocabulary Design
  • User Research
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 20%
  • (1) Database Design: Non-text Collection
  • (2) Database Design & Subject Analysis:
    Bibliographic Collection
  • (3) Site Structures
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 55%
Review Quizzes 1356, others 15%
Discussions 567, others 10%
Total   100%

Projects 1 and 2 involve designing and creating simple web-based databases and require using WebData Pro software. Project 1 includes small group activities and project deliverables, with approximately half of the points based on a group grade; the remaining points are based on individual deliverables submitted separately. Project 2 is done in partners. Project 3 is done individually. The Exercises help prepare students for the project work and most are graded credit/no-credit.

Review Quizzes: The two quizzes serve as a review of material in the course lectures and readings; they are open-book, untimed over several days, and all questions may be viewed at once. Each quiz covers approximately one-half of the course content.

Assignment Requirements

  • Check the course site daily for announcements and discussion posts.
  • Submit assignments by midnight Pacific on the due date. Late assignments are not accepted except in cases of serious illness or family emergency.

Readings in addition to the required textbooks will be made available on the course site. 

Writing Requirement
If the instructor finds that a student's writing is unacceptable, the instructor will require the student to sign up for online writing tutoring. The student will ask the tutor to confirm with the instructor that he/she is attending sessions.

Course Calendar
A detailed course calendar is available from the course site on the first day of the semester.

Course Topics

Lesson  Topics
1 Introduction to the course & Overview of course concepts
  • Science and practice
  • Information science and library science
  • Information retrieval
2 Introduction to IR systems and system design issues
  • IR systems for search & navigation
  • Introduction to metadata
  • Metadata systems
  • Hierarchical organization
3 Designing for search
  • Databases
  • Data structures
  • Representation of information
    • Surrogate records
    • Fields & values
    • Standards
    • Rules
  • Descriptive & subject access: overview
4 Design processes
  • Eliciting information needs
  • Stages in the design process
  • Standards
  • Introduction to user research
  • Introduction to evaluation
5 User research
  • Card sort & other techniques
  • Understanding user information-seeking
6 Search
  • Boolean logic
  • Proximity operators
  • Inverted files
  • Relationships between data structures & search options
7 Evaluation
  • Evaluating IR systems
  • Evaluating searches; precision & recall
  • Other criteria for evaluation
8 Designing for navigation
  • Web structures
  • Designing site maps
  • Hierarchies: when to be formally correct, when not to be
  • Methods for design: usability heuristics, HCI factors

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

INFO 202 has no prequisite requirements.

Course Learning Outcomes

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

  1. Design two major kinds of information retrieval systems: metadata and web hierarchies.
  2. Understand the basic vocabulary and concepts of information retrieval (IR), and use them in class discussions and analyses of IR design projects; understand the concepts, principles, challenges, and work embodied in the assignments as representative of concepts, principles, challenges, and work described in course content.
  3. Identify standards and best practices for metadata, classification schema and hierarchies, and apply them in assignments.
  4. Identify an appropriate user group for an IR product, assess their information needs, conduct user research, and design an information retrieval system to meet those needs.
  5. Explain and apply basic design principles for usability, focused on the content and organization of information for retrieval.
  6. Use Boolean logic and other methods to query the databases created as class assignments with effective searches in both natural language and controlled vocabulary fields; navigate hierarchies efficiently.
  7. Evaluate a database information retrieval system, including its vocabularies, using standard measures such as recall and precision; evaluate interfaces for information retrieval using basic principles of interface design.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 202 supports the following core competencies:

  1. E Design, query, and evaluate information retrieval systems.
  2. G Demonstrate understanding of basic principles and standards involved in organizing information such as classification and controlled vocabulary systems, cataloging systems, metadata schemas or other systems for making information accessible to a particular clientele.


Required Textbooks:

  • Tucker, V.M. (Ed.). (2018). Information retrieval system design: Principles & practice (edition 5.1). AcademicPub/XanEdu. Available as eBook, softcover, or spiralbound; see ordering instructions.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 or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — 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 if you wish to stay in the program. 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.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

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