INFO 285-10
Research Methods in Library and Information Science
Topic: Historical Research Methods
Fall 2019 Syllabus

Dr. Anthony Bernier, MLIS, MA, Ph.D.(History) 
Home Office: (510) 339-6880
Office Hours:
by appointment

Syllabus Links
Course Learning Outcomes 
iSchool eBookstore

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning Wednesday, August 21, 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.

Our class begins officially with Week #1 on Wednesday 21 August. Weekly units end on Sundays at 11:59 PM (Pacific) and that will be the due time for all of our assignments (save for the final).

Course Description

This course examines research methods covering fundamental principles, processes, values, and roles of research for professional application in information organizations. Note, this is not a conventional "history" course. Students will become critical consumers of historical research and the steps required to produce it. Emphasis will concentrate on developing, planning, and producing a quality research proposal.

This section of research methods (Historical Methods) will introduce students to the theory and methods of historical research and writing.  It explores the ways in which scholars develop and frame research questions; assess current literature on historical topics; locate and critically use tertiary, secondary, and primary sources; and formulate viable and worthwhile research proposals.  Emphasis will be placed on the research skills and tools academic historians use and the role information professionals play in their support and development.

Waiver of INFO 285: If a student has taken and passed a graduate-level research methods course within the last 5 years (as documented by an official transcript), the student can petition the Coordinator of Admissions and Academic Advising to waive the INFO 285 requirement.

Please send an electronic copy of the transcript (scanned as a pdf file) to the Coordinator of Admissions and Academic Advising.

A waiver, if granted, does not reduce the total units required for the MLIS degree. It simply means that you are not required to take INFO 285 as one of your MLIS classes.

Course Requirements

  • Canvas Discussions pertaining to historical research and history information sources. 20 points (10 discussions, 2 points each)

  • IRB Certification.  (5 points). Complete the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) online ethics workshop. Completion of this workshop is required of all students enrolled in a research methods course.  You may complete this workshop at any point during the semester. It requires about two hours.  When you have finished the workshop, you will receive a certificate you should submit to me as proof of completion. Further details are contained in our separate Course Outline.
  • Prepare a critical annotated bibliography. (10 points) An analytical review of reference (aka "tertiary") sources that inform searching of secondary sources on the history of the information community you studied in INFO 200.

  • Historiographic Essay.  (20 points). 
    Locate and review 12-15 scholarly historical scholarship on your information community topic.  This secondary material should cover a combination of scholarly writing (i.e., monographs and refereed journal articles, but exclude writing from professional or practitioner media).   
  • Primary Source Survey.  (15 points) Locate, survey, and describe plausible primary sources that you might otherwise use in a formally executed research project.

  • Proposal Peer Review.  (5 points) Provide a short critical review of a classmate’s research proposal draft based on established criteria.

  • Research Proposal.  (25 points) Deliver a formal research proposal.  The proposal will build on earlier assignments and culminate in an overview of the topic and its significance, a critical literature review, a discussion of methodology and primary sources, and an outline of proposed chapters.
  • All assignments must be turned at 11:59 PM (Pacific) on the day they are due. Late submissions will be reduced by 20% of the total points possible for that assignment.

Course Calendar and Grading

Student Deliverables CLOs Supported Grade Weight Due Dates
Discussions (10) 2, 3, 4 20 points (total) Various
(see separate Course Outline)
Reference Source Bibliography 1, 2, 4 10 points

Week 4
15 September 11:59 PM
(Pacific time)

Historiographic Essay 1, 2 20 points

Week 7
6 October 11:59 PM
(Pacific time)

Primary Source Survey 2, 4 15 points

Week 10
27 October 11:59 PM
(Pacific time)

Peer Review Draft Proposal 

(2 steps)

1, 4 5 points

Weeks 12 & 13
-Sunday 10 November &
-Sunday 17 November
11:59 PM
(Pacific time)

CITI ethics workshop 3 5 points

Week 17
by Wednesday
11 December 11:59 PM
(Pacific time)

Final Research Proposal 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 25 points

Week 17
11 December 11:59 PM
(Pacific time)

    Total: 100  

Optional Zoom Office Hours: Optional

Topic: Toward the Historiographic Essay
(will be recorded)

Week 7
Wednesday 2 October
6-7PM (Pacific Time)
Zoom link:

Topic: Toward Research Proposal Final
(will be recorded)

Week 16
Wednesday 4 December
6-7PM (Pacific Time)
Zoom link:

Holiday Observances
Only University-recognized holidays will be recognized for this class. See the SJSU Academic Calendar on the University’s website for specific details.

Please avail yourself of the policy for incomplete coursework on the School’s website:

Dropping the Course
The last day to drop this course without an entry on your permanent record and to receive a full tuition refund is Tuesday 3 September, after which no tuition refund is allowed.

Required Style Manual

Historical research requires you to effectively communicate your research findings and critically evaluate the writings of others.   An important aspect of this scholarly communication is understanding and using the standard citation formats and conventions for historical scholarship.  Because of its use of footnotes and the extensive details required in citation formats, historians and history publications use The Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition) for written publications.  This contrasts the LIS convention of APA (American Psychological Association) style.

If you are serious about historical writing and publishing I encourage you to invest in a copy of the Chicago MOS and to use it faithfully.  Kate L. Turabian’s A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (8th edition) is a derivative of Chicago MOS and an acceptable substitute for this class.

Please consider purchasing your textbooks from the SOI e-Bookstore (a project of Amazon Affiliates program) because it generates revenue exclusively for iSchool student scholarships: SOI eBookstore

Other articles and resources will be assigned throughout the term and available either through the King Library’s full-text databases, the web, or furnished to you through our class Canvas site.

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:

  • Maza, S. (2017). Thinking about history. University of Chicago Press. Available through Amazon: 022610933X arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Presnell, J. (2018). The information-literate historian (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 019085149Xarrow 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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