INFO 285-01
Applied Research Methods
Spring 2018 Syllabus

Dr. Scott Walter
Office Location: Chicago, Illinois
Office Hours: Virtual office hours. Telephone advising by appointment. Please note that your instructor is on U.S. Central Time.

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning January 24th, 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 in 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 section provides a general introduction to research methods frequently used in library and information science research (e.g., survey, interview, focus groups). The course takes you through the steps needed to develop and produce a research proposal on a topic of your choice.

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

Course Requirements

Participation and Engagement (Supports CLOs #1 - 4)
Students are expected to actively participate in class, make thoughtful and informed contributions to class discussions, complete activities and assignments as posted, and give updates on their own research plan.

IRB Training Requirement (Supports CLO #4)
Students will 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 PHRP ( link goes to non-SJSU web site).

Article Summaries and Reviews (Supports CLOs #1 - 2)
Students will write two (2) brief reviews of selected, published research studies that illustrate the use of specific research methods in library and information science, e.g., survey research, focus group research. All students will complete a review of a study employing survey research, and each may choose the topic of the second review from options noted on the Calendar (below). These reviews are due on dates coinciding with the class discussion of the selected methods.

Literature Review (Supports CLOs #1 - 2)
Students will write a review of the literature related to their chosen research topic that provides a summary and synthesis of previous studies, identifies gaps in the literature, and indicates how the proposed studies relate to, or extend, existing studies in the field.

Data Collection Method (Supports CLOs #2 - 3)
Students will select a data collection method, e.g., survey, interview, ethnography, and write a review of its use in library and information science, including examples of how the method is employed in LIS research, discussion of the strengths and limitations of the method, and discussion of how this method might be employed in the research proposal.

Research Proposal (Supports CLOs #1 - 4)
Students will write a research proposal for a study appropriate for a Master's thesis. The proposal will include: problem statement, introduction to the topic, research question(s), significance of the study, literature review, data collection method(s), and plan for data analysis.   

Research Proposal Presentation (Supports CLOs #1 - 4)
Students will present an overview of their research proposal to be shared with classmates.

Further information on course assignments is available on the Canvas site.


Assignment Points Due Date(s)
Participation 25 Continuous
IRB Training Requirement 5 February 26th
Article Summaries/Reviews (2) 10

March 5th (Survey Research)

Choice of 2nd Topic & Date (see Calendar; 2nd review due the week the topic is discussed in class)

Literature Review 10 April 9th
Data Collection Method 10 April 23rd
Research Proposal Presentation 10 May 3rd
Research Proposal 30 May 14th

All assignments are due by 7:00 pm (Pacific) on the dates noted above and should be submitted through the Canvas site. Late submissions may receive a grade penalty of 20% of the total points possible for the assignment. Assignment deadlines may be adjusted by the instructor with appropriate notice. Announcement of any changes to course assignments or other course components will be made on the Canvas site.

Course Calendar
This is an initial calendar of course topics and assignments that may be changed with appropriate notice. Consult the Canvas site for the most recently updated, and complete, course calendar and for announcements of weekly readings, discussion topics, and other assignments.

Week Topic Assignment
Week 1
Jan 24 - 30
Introduction and Overview

Review Canvas site, including assignment descriptions and due dates

Graded discussion post

Week 2
Jan 31 - Feb 6
The Research Process  
Week 3
Feb 7 - 13
Research Questions  Graded discussion post
Week 4
Feb 14 - 20
Research Design and Measurement  Graded discussion post
Week 5
Feb 21 - 27
Research Ethics 

IRB Training Requirement Due February 26th

Graded discussion post

Week 6   Feb  28 - Mar 6

Survey Research Article Review (Survey Research) Due March 5th
Week 7
Mar 7 - 13
Bibliometrics If Selected: Article Review (Bibliometrics) Due March 12th
Week 8 Mar 14 - 20 No Class - Instructor Travel  
Week 9
Mar 21 - 27
Content Analysis If Selected: Article Review (Content Analysis) Due March 26th
Week 10
Mar 28 - Apr 3
No Class - Spring Break

Continue Work on Literature Review

Week 11
Apr 4 - 10
Interviews and Focus Groups

Literature Review Due April 9th

Graded discussion post

If Selected: Article Review (Interviews or Focus Groups) Due April 9th

Week 12
Apr 11 - 17

Historical Research

If Selected: Article Review (Historical Research) Due April 16th

Week 13
Apr 18 - 24

Ethnographic and User Experience (UX) Research

Data Collection Method Due April 23rd

Graded discussion post 

If Selected: Article Review (Ethnographic Research or UX Research) Due April 23rd

Note: This is the final week during which a second article review may be submitted.

Week 14
Apr 25 - May 2
Action Research and Critical Librarianship  Graded Discussion post
Week 15
May 3 - 8
Presentation Week

Research Proposal Presentation Due May 3rd

Note: This assignment is due "off-cycle" in order to allow a greater opportunity for you to receive feedback from classmates that may help to improve your Research Proposal

Graded Discussion post

Week 16
May 9 - 14
Writing Week Research Proposal Due May 14th

Other Relevant Information:
As a graduate student, you are expected to:

  • Complete and carefully consider all assigned readings.
  • Fully participate in all class activities and discussions.
  • Complete all assignments on time.
  • Inform the instructor if you have an illness or emergency that requires you to be absent from our online learning environment for an extended period of time or to request an extension on an assignment.

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:

  • Beck, S. E., & Manuel, K. (2008). Practical research methods for librarians and information professionals. Neal-Schuman Publishers (ALA). Available through Amazon: 155570591Xarrow 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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