INFO 285-12
Research Methods in Library and Information Science
Topic: General Research Methods
Summer 2017 Syllabus

Dr. H. Frank Cervone
Other contact information: You can contact me quickest through e-mail. If you send a message through Canvas, please realize that the message may not be delivered for several hours. 
Office location:
Chicago, Online
Office Hours: By appointment, send me an e-mail to schedule a discussion

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning June 5th, 6 am PT 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.

Course Description

Covers 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 evaluating, planning, designing, executing, and applying research. In addition to a general research methods class, which examines a variety of research methodologies, the iSchool offers a number of applied or specialized sections of INFO 285 for students to choose from.

This is a general research course and focuses on the most commonly used research methods in applied library and information science research.

INFO 285 is required for all students who entered the MLIS program from Spring 2007.

Waiver of INFO 285: See Waiver option for those who completed a graduate-level methods course AND completed a thesis or dissertation as part of a previous graduate degree.

Course Grading and assignments

Specific details related to the assignments will be provided in the course website.

  • Discussions
    Most weeks you will participate in discussion threads related to that week’s topics. Participation is demonstrated through prompt and thoughtful contribution to the discussions. Both your individual contributions to the discussion topics and your responses to your colleagues’ postings are important. As part of the graduate research education experience is to help you learn how to present information from a fact-based perspective, it is a basic expectation that responses will include evidence and references to support your statements. Supports CLO #2, #3
  • Learning mastery activities
    These activities provide you with opportunities to help you gauge your understanding of key course topics. Activities, such as a quiz or short reflective writing, will be used to help assess your learning of key components from the week’s course material. Supports CLO #1, #2, #3, #4
  • IRB training requirement
    The nature of research and the protection of research subjects is a fundamental concept all researchers must understand. You will fulfill this requirement by completing the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) online workshop titled "Students conducting no more than minimal risk research" during weeks 2 and 3. You can register for the course at Your successful completion of the training will be documented by uploading the certificate of completion issued by CITI. Supports CLO #4
  • Literature review
    The purpose of this assignment is to give you experience reviewing and critiquing research that will contribute to a study of your own. You will compile a literature review of no less than 12 items on a research topic in library or information science. You may include journal and newsletter articles, videos, blog posts, wiki entries, and other information sources as part of the review but you must include no fewer than 8 scholarly, peer-reviewed sources. The paper will be 2000 words long, not including the title page and bibliography. Paper format and all citations must be in APA format. Supports CLO #2
  • Research methods critique
    In this assignment, you will become familiar with analyzing and critiquing research work. You will analyze an assigned research paper noting the type of data collected in addition to the assumptions, definitions, strengths, and limitations of the research methodology. Your analysis will be approximately 1500 words in length, not including title page or bibliography. Paper format and all references must be in APA format. Supports CLO #4
  • Final Research Project Proposal
    The final research project proposal is a document that demonstrates your knowledge of the course content. This document describes a research project in library or information science that you would like to perform. Your paper will document

    • the research problem(s),
    • the methodology and data collection strategies to be used,
    • a critical literature review relevant to the topic, and
    • a plan of action and timeline for the implementation of the research proposal.

    The main part of your paper will be 2500 to 3000 words long not including the title page, bibliography, or any appendices. Paper format and all references must be in APA format. Supports CLO #3

Policies on assignment submissions

  1. This is not a self-paced course. All participants are expected to move through the course as a group.
  2. All arrangements for late submission of an assignment must be made at least one day before the due date. The only reason for granting an arrangement for late submission is a medical emergency or a death in the family.
  3. Major assignments (except the weekly discussion topics) are due by midnight Pacific Time on the date listed in the course site. 
  4. All discussion contributions (both initial posts and follow-ups) are due no later than the stated due date and time for each component in the course. No late submissions for discussions will be accepted once the conversation has been closed.

Assignment Summary

Assignment % of final grade
IRB training requirement 5%
Literature review 15%
Data and methods critique 15%
Final proposal 25%
Discussions 30%
Learning mastery activities 10%

Course Calendar

The topics for each week, along with the deadlines for the major work products, are indicated below along with the required readings from "Practical Research Methods for Librarians and Information Professionals" (PRM), “Social Science Research” (SSR), and "Naked Statistics" (NS). The calendar of topics is subject to change with fair notice. However, in no case, will the due date of an assignment be moved up.

Date Topic
Week 1 Course introductions
The benefits of research and the research process – PRM Chapters 1 and 2
Introduction to statistics - NS Chapters 1 and 2
Week 2

Content analysis and Field Research – PRM Chapter 3
Descriptive statistics - NS Chapter 3
Start CITI IRB training requirement

Week 3

Interviews, focus groups, observation, and usability – PRM Chapters 4 and 5
Correlation– NS Chapter 4
CITI IRB training requirement due

Week 4 Bibliometrics – PRM Chapter 7
Literature review due
Week 5 Sampling and survey research – SSR Chapters 8 and 9
The importance of data and polling - NS Chapter 7, 10
Week 6 Action and classroom research – PRM Chapters 8 and 9
Probability and its problems - NS Chapter 5, 5 ½, and 6
Week 7

The Central Limit Theorem and Inference - NS Chapters 8 and 9
Research Methods Critique due

Week 8 Experimental Research – PRM Chapter 6
Regression Analysis and Common Mistakes - NS Chapters 11, 12
Week 9 Review of proposal writing
Avoiding common pitfalls in research – PRM Chapter 10
Program Evaluation - NS Chapter 13
Week 10 Final research proposal due

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 200, INFO 202, INFO 204. 

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

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 285 supports the following core competencies:

  1. L Demonstrate understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods, the ability to design a research project, and the ability to evaluate and synthesize research literature.


Required Textbooks:

  • Beck, S. E., & Manuel, K. (2008). Practical research methods for librarians and information professionals. Chicago, IL: Neal-Schuman Publishers (ALA). Available through Amazon: 155570591Xarrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Wheelan, C. (2013). Naked statistics: Stripping the dread from the data. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. Available through Amazon: 039334777Xarrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Bhattacherjee, A. (2012). Social science research: Principles, methods, and practices. University of South Florida Scholar Commons. Available through Amazon: 1475146124arrow 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 or Informatics) — 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.

Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 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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