INFO 285-13
Applied Research Methods: Evaluating Programs & Services
Fall Semester 2017 Syllabus

Dr. J. Sweeney
Other contact information: (916) 718-9442
Office location: Off-site
Office Hours: By appointment 

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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 section is focused on research methods most often used when evaluating and assessing services in public, academic, and special libraries as well as information agencies.  This course covers applied research methods and techniques useful in managing libraries and other information organizations, particularly as applied to decision-making, requirements analyses, user studies, and program and service evaluation.   We will introduce fundamental qualitative and quantitative research concepts so students can build a working research vocabulary.  We also cover a few basic statistical, tabular, and graphic tools.  Students will develop the skills necessary to:

* Recognize and define an assessment or evaluation research problem whose solution could improve professional practice.

* Interpret and evaluate relevant research literature and write a literature review related to a research topic.

* Design and implement appropriate research strategies, including constructing a sample and designing data collection instruments and analysis methods.

* Perform a preliminary analysis of an actual data set, discerning findings, tentative conclusions, and tentative recommendations, while noting some of the gaps and shortcomings of the data set.

* Use MS Excel to compute and interpret basic descriptive and inferential statistics and create useful tables and graphs to present your data.

* Propose a project to evaluate a real or imagined library service or program, noting the types of data to be gathered, the types of analysis to be performed, the overall picture of the service that these data and analysis will reveal, and how such a program evaluation will be informative and useful to all the stakeholders.

The emphasis in this class is on providing you with a balance of theoretical background and practical tools you can take with you into the workplace. 

Waiver of INFO 285: See Waiver option for those who have completed a graduate-level methods course within the last 5 years.

Course Requirements

IRB Training Requirement
Complete the National Institute of Health’s online workshop titled: “Protecting Human Research Participants (PHRP).” Completion of this workshop is required by all San José State University faculty and students intending to do research with living human subjects. The course can be located at: link goes to non-SJSU web site


Complete information on assignment requirements is provided in the Assignments document in the Course Overview section in Canvas. Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) are indicated for each assignment below.

1. Article critique: CLO #1

2. Research Question: CLO #2

3. Literature Review: CLOs #1 & #2

4. Variables: CLOs #2 & #3

5/6. Data Collection & Analysis Plan: CLOs #2, #3, & #4

7. Final Proposal: CLOs #2, #3, & #4

8. IRB Certification: CLO #4

9. Presentation: CLO #3

10. Activities & Discussion: CLOs #2 & #3

Course Calendar
Assignments and due dates are subject to change. All assignments, activities, and discussion participation are due Sunday 11:59 pm.


Week 1:

Aug 23-Aug 27

Introduction to social science research Activity & Discussion

Week 2:

Aug 28-Sept 3

Types of research

Critical analysis of article

Activity & Discussion

Week 3:

Sept 4 - Sept 10

Introduction to evaluation Activity & Discussion

Week 4:

Sept 11 - Sept 17

Program evaluation in LIS

Research question

Activity & Discussion

Week 5:

Sept 18 - Sept 24

Logic modeling Activity & Discussion

Week 6:

Sept 25 - Oct 1

Basic research concepts

Literature review

Activity & Discussion

Week 7:

Oct 2-Oct 8

Sampling Activity & Discussion

Week 8:

Oct 9 - Oct 15



Activity & Discussion

Week 9:

Oct 16 - Oct 22

Interviews Activity & Discussion

Week 10:

Oct 23 - Oct 29

Other types of datasets

Data collection plan

Activity & Discussion

Week 11:

Oct 30 - Nov 5

Approaches to data analysis Activity & Discussion

Week 12:

Nov 6 - Nov 12

Quantitative analysis Activity & Discussion

Week 13:

Nov 13 - Nov 19

Qualitative analysis

Data analysis plan

Activity & Discussion

Week 14:

Nov 20 - Nov 26

Research project management No activity/discussion

Week 15:

Nov 27 - Dec 3

Writing & using research results

Final project: Research proposal

Activity & Discussion

Week 16:

Dec 4 - Dec 11

IRB & Ethics

IRB Certification

Activity & Discussion


General grading criteria: Answer all prompts, observe word limits, submit on time, good quality writing. The content of your postings should show you read the assigned readings and absorbed what was covered in class lectures. Rubrics for assignments, discussion, and activities are noted in the ASSIGNMENTS document in the Course Overview section in Canvas.   IMPORTANT: Writing should be clear and concise; use correct grammar, punctuation, and usage.  

All activities and deliverables are due by Sunday 11:59 pm (Eastern time).  Late submissions will receive half credit.  Assignments submitted more than 24 hours past due without prior approval from the instructor will receive no credit.

Final grades are based on the sum of the points received for each of the assignments and participation described in the Course Overview, weighted according to the percentages listed below.

Assignment/Activity: Percent of grade 

1. Article critique: 10%

2. Research Question: 10%

3. Literature Review: 10%

4. Variables: 10%

5/6. Data Collection & Analysis Plan: 10%

7. Final Proposal 10%

8. IRB Certification 5%

9. Presentation 5%

10. Activities & Discussion 30%

Total 100%


Participation in this course consists of your posts to the activity/discussion forums each week.  You are required to contribute a minimum of two substantive posts per discussion question. Contributions should be substantive.  “Substantive” means containing evidence of reading and critical thinking about the course content.  As a rule of thumb, a well-constructed paragraph of 4 to 5 sentences is considered substantive. Merely agreeing with a classmate is not sufficient.  While your own opinions are important, please back these up with evidence from your reading (whether for this class or another).  Although the due dates for discussion and assignments are technically the end of the week, please be courteous and do NOT wait until the end of the week to post your assignments or contributions to the discussion!  You need to give your colleagues time to read and respond.  I suggest submitting your original post by Thurs 11:59 pm and your response by Sunday 11:59 pm.

Our discussion space is always open for informal conversation with your colleagues too.  The Student Lounge forum is ideal for informal conversation on any topics outside the course.  While informal conversation and questions about the course logistics, material, or procedures are always welcomed and encouraged, they do not count toward the participation grade.


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 285 has no prequisite requirements.

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.

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:

  • Babbie, E. (2012). The practice of social research (13th ed.). Wadsworth Publishing. Available through Amazon: 1133049796arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Booth, W., Colomb, G., & Williams, J. (2008). The Craft of Research (3rd ed.). University of Chicago Press. Available through Amazon: 0226065669. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • American Psychological Association (2009). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.) American Psychological Association. Available through Amazon: 1433805618. 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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