INFO 202-14
INFO 202-15
INFO 202-16
Information Retrieval System Design
Fall 2019 Syllabus

Alyce Scott

Office hours: Virtually, by appointment via email, in Zoom.

Syllabus Sections
Workload Expectations
Learning Objectives
iSchool Resources
Canvas Login and Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore
INFO 202 Resources
LibGuide for 202
WebData Pro Tutorials

Canvas Information: 
Courses will be available beginning August 21st 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.

Class begins via Canvas on August 21, 2019.

Be sure to log into the course site no later than August 22, to begin the first lesson.

Course Description

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

Note: the iSchool requires that students earn a B in this course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation, and you must repeat the class the following semester. 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.

Course Requirements

Class Virtual Meetings

 All of the course lectures are pre-recorded. There will generally be one lecture given each week. Any live Zoom sessions (e.g. training sessions) will be recorded for later listening. There are no mandatory live sessions.

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 INFO203 Online Learning.

Technology Requirements

INFO 202 students will use WebData Pro, a web-based database management and information retrieval system, to create databases, manage database structures, and records, and create a web-based interface for searching the database. WebData Pro is compatible with current browsers for Windows, Mac OS X, and iOS.

Before starting INFO 202 students must:


Assignment Learning Objectives/Competencies Graded Points

Exercises (in support of the Projects)

1. Creating structured metadata

     a. Attributes & Designing a Data Structure

     b. Implementing a Data Structure (WebData Pro)

     c. Creating Standards for Database Content (Rule Writing)

2. Vocabulary Design Basics

3. Conducting User Research (Card Sorting)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9










1. Designing & Evaluating Databases

2. Designing Vocabulary for Target User Group

3. Evaluating & Designing Websites

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9






1. Introduction

2. Organizing Things

3. Evaluating Searches

4. Website Usability








Total   100

Course Calendar 

A detailed Course Calendar is available in Canvas on the first day of the semester. The table below provides a summary of course topics and assignment due dates. It is subject to minor changes, that will be announced with fair notice.




Week 1:

August 21-27


Introduction to the Course/Course Site:
  • Science and practice
  • Information science and library science
  • Information retrieval
  • Post to the “Introductions” discussion ( please include your time zone) by August 24
  • Familiarize yourself with the Syllabus page, in Canvas
 Part 1: Designing IR Systems

Week 2:

August 28-September 3

Intro to IR Systems and System Design Issues:

  • IR systems for search & navigation
  • Introduction to metadata
  • Metadata systems
  • Hierarchical organization
  • Exercise 1A, Part I, due August 28
  • Exercise 1A, Part II, due September 3

Week 3

September 4-10


Review of important concepts in week 1 and 2 lectures


  • Exercise 1B, WebDataPro Orientation, due September 6
  • Exercise 1C: Writing a Rule, due September 10
  • Topic 1 discussion ends: September 10

 Week 4:

September 11-17

Designing for Search:

  • Databases
  • Data structures
  • Representation of information
    • Surrogate records
    • Fields & values
    • Standards
    • Rules
  • Descriptive & subject access: overview


  • Nothing due this week
  • Continue working on Project 1 alpha prototype
 Part 2: Querying IR Systems

Week 5:

September 18-24

Review of important concepts in week 4 lecture.
  • Project 1: alpha prototype design document, due September 24

Week 6:

September 25-October 1

Design Processes:

  • Eliciting information needs
  • Stages in the design process
  • Standards
  • Introduction to user research
  • Introduction to evaluation




 Part 3: Evaluating IR Systems

Week 7:

October 2-8
Review of important concepts in week 6 lecture
  • Project 1 beta version for exchange group, due October 2

Week 8:

October 9-15 

User Research:

  • Card sort & other techniques
  • Understanding user information-seeking
  • Project 1 beta prototype evaluation, due October 15

Week 9:

October 16-22


  • Boolean logic
  • Proximity operators
  • Inverted files
  • Relationships between data structures & search options
  • Exercise 2, due October 22
  • Topic 2 discussion ends October 22

Week 10:

October 23-29

Review of important concepts in week 8 and 9 lectures


  • Project 2 draft vocabulary, due October 29

Week 11:

October 30-November 5


  • Evaluating individual searches
  • Precision & recall
  • Evaluating IR systems
  • Other criteria for evaluation
  • Project 2, due November 5

Week 12:

November 6-12

Designing for Navigation:
  • Web structures
  • Designing sitemaps
  • Hierarchies: when to be formally correct, when not to be
  • Methods for design: usability heuristics, HCI factors
  • Nothing due this week

 Week 13:

November 13-19

Review of important concepts in week 12 and 13 lectures
  • Topic 3 discussion, ends November 19

Week 14:

November 20-26

Trends in user research & relevance

  • Recent studies in user research
  • Relevance measures in web search design
  • Exercise 3, due November 26

Week 15:

November 27-December 3

Thanksgiving Week - no lectures/readings this week
  • Nothing due this week

Week 16:

December 4-9

No lectures/readings this week - work time
  • Project 3, due December 6

Assignment Requirements

  • Check the course site daily for announcements and discussion posts.
  • Submit assignments via Canvas, by 11:59 PM (PT) on the due date. 
  • Late assignments are not accepted except in cases of serious illness or family emergency - or with the prior consent of the instructor. Late assignments will not be accepted after 5 days past the due date. Late assignments submitted after the assignment deadline will receive a 10% point reduction per day up to 5 days, based on the total point value of the assignment. No points will be awarded after 5 days late.
  • Discussion board posts will not be accepted for credit after the module's discussion has ended.
  • All course materials must be completed by the last day of class - incompletes will not be given.

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 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.
  8. Learn database management software in order to implement database design, information structures, and create search interface.
  9. Assess user information needs, curate a small collection, and develop a controlled vocabulary for search access to that collection for the target user group.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

INFO 202 supports the following core competencies:

  1. E Design, query, and evaluate information retrieval systems.
  2. F Use the basic concepts and principles related to the selection, evaluation, organization, and preservation of physical and digital information items.
  3. 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.
  4. H Demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.


Required Textbooks:

  • Tucker, V.M. (Ed.). (2019). Information retrieval system design: Principles & practice (6th ed.). AcademicPub/XanEdu. ordering instructionsarrow 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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