INFO 285-12
Applied Research Methods (General Overview)
Summer 2020 Syllabus

Dr. Geoffrey Z. Liu
Other contact information: telephone: (408) 924-2467
Office location: Clark Hall 418L, SJSU Campus
Office Hours: Email & by appointment

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Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning on June 1st at 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

The course 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, 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 (case study, historical research, qualitative research, survey study, and experimental study). Emphasis will be on critical evaluation of published studies and development of research proposal.

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

IRB Training Requirement
Complete the University of Miami's online workshop (part of its collaborative institutional training initiative), titled "Social and Behavioral Research - Basic/Refresher". Completion of this online 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 CITI Program Human Subjects Research - goes to non-SJSU web site


Assignment Learning Objectives Portion of
Course Grade
Written Report of Research Critique

1, 3


IRB training (online tutorial)


Research Proposal (term paper)
2, 4 40%
Presentation of Research Idea 2, 4 10%
Online Discussion 1, 2, 3, 4 20%
  • Self-introduction (class discussion)
  • Research critique (group discussion)


  • Developing research idea (group discussion)
    • Identification of research direction
    • Defining a research problem
    • Key findings from literature
    • Research design & method

(3% per topic)

Individual Exercises of Statistical Analyses

  • SPSS installation & data import (1%)
  • Crosstab w/ Chi-square analysis (3%)
  • t-test & Pearson correlation (3%)
  • One-way ANOVA (3%)
2, 4


Total   100%

To facilitate effective class interaction, students will be assigned into groups (of optimal size of five) to conduct online discussion of research critique. Each member in a group will choose one published empirical study (of designated research type/method), post the article (bibliographic reference and article PDF) with brief comments and at least one question on its research design/method, and lead/moderate follow-up discussion afterward. The group discussion of research critique (on different design/method) is synchronized with weekly learning activities as outlined in the course calendar. In other words, each member will take turn to lead the critique discussion on a different research design/method at a different point of time, and prepare/submit a written report based on his/her own analysis and group discussion. The discussion ends when the corresponding written report is due.

In addition, students will also discuss research ideas in groups while developing a proposal (term paper). Each group member will post his/her intermediate works and be commenting on each other's postings. Specifically, each student is expected to post at different points in time: (1) brief statement of general research direction of interest and potential problems/issues to explore, and then (2) refined/finalized research problem and questions, (3) summary of key relevant findings from previous research, (4) consideration and decision on research design and data gathering methods/protocol/process, with analytical justification (pros and cons), along with plan of data analysis. Students are to help each other improve the proposed research plan by offering constructive criticism and suggestions. This discussion will be on-going throughout the semester.

In both cases, the lead posting needs to be done by the corresponding deadline specified in the Canvas course calendar.

All written work (research critique report and term paper) should be word-processed and free of grammatical/spelling errors. The APA editorial guidelines are to be followed consistently in terms of formatting, references, and citation. Tutorial, assistance, and resources for improving academic writing skills are available at the Writing Resources Center.

It is students' responsibility to submit and maintain the electronic version of their work until the final grade is issued.

Course Calendar with Due Dates
(The brief version below is tentative. A final and extensive version will be provided in the Canvas class site.)

# Topic Assignment/Tasks
(GD -- group discussion)



Zoom Meeting
7:00-9:00pm PST

Self-intro online

Introduction  Self-intro END
Research Process, Methods & Design Download & install SPSS 
Exploratory Research GD-Critique: Case study (CS)
Measuring a factor/concept  GD-Proposal: (1) Initial research direction 
Historical/Archival Study 

CS written critique DUE 

GD-CritiqueHistorical study (HS)

Preparation/Encoding of Quantitative Data

SPSS installation DUE

GD-Proposal: (2) Research problem & questions

Research Population & Sampling Techniques

HS written critique DUE

Import/re-coding sample Excel dataset

Survey (Questionnaire) Research

GD-CritiqueSurvey research (SR) 

Quantitative Data Analysis

GD-Proposal: (3) Literature review (key findings)

Statistical Analyses for Hypothesis Testing

SR written critique DUE

Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory & Content Analysis 

QR written critique DUE; Stat Ex-1 DUE
GD-CritiqueQualitative research (QR)

Experimental Study

Stat Ex-2 DUE
GD-CritiqueExperimental study (ES)
GD-Proposal: (4) Design & methods

Ethics, Findings, and Report

QR written critique DUE; Stat Ex-3 DUE

(Research and Writing)

ES written critique DUE

(Research and Writing)

CITI Certificate DUE

Presentation of Proposal Ideas (Sign up in groups. Attendance optional if not presenting)

Zoom Meetings

Term Paper (Research Proposal) TP DUE 

Participation in online discussion will be graded based on normalized counts of postings as tracked by the Canvas system, with necessary adjustment for quality of contribution. Leading/moderating of discussion on research critique and proposal ideas will be graded as Credit/No Credit. Individual exercises of statistical analyses, IRB training, and presentation of proposal ideas will be graded as Credit/No Credit as well. Written report of research critique and term paper will be letter-graded.

Students' written work will be evaluated according to the following specific criteria.

  • Basic content as required (70%);
  • Originality and creativity (20%);
  • Quality of writing (10%);

The Standard SJSU iSchool Grading Scale will be used to translate letter grades to percentage scores. Per-assignment scores are added up proportionately to yield the total of earned points, which in turn is converted back into a letter grade using the same scale. No extra credit is offered for additional work and no make-up task for missed assignment.

Late submission will not be accepted unless appropriate documentation of legitimate cause for the delay is provided timely. Request for deadline extension will be handled the same way as of Incomplete, in accordance with the University/School policy.

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.

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:

  • Neuman, W. L. (2019). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (8th ed., Kindle ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Pearson Education. Available through Amazon: B07TL9YBJ9arrow 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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