INFO 285-03
Research Methods in Library and Information Science
Topic: Historical Research
Fall 2020 Syllabus

Dr. Timothy J. Dickey
Office Hours: Fridays 10 am Pacific Time, or by appointment. Your email questions about any and all course questions should be answered the next business day.

Syllabus Links
iSchool eBookstore

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 19th, 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

Research methods covering 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 planning, designing, executing, and reporting research as well as evaluating and applying published research findings. Emphasis will concentrate on developing, planning, and producing a quality research proposal.

Specifically, this course will introduce you to the methods used by researchers in various fields of human history, from the selection and evaluation of both primary and secondary documents to the research plan, and through the research project. By means of your central research proposal, you will experience the process of historical research, either for your own library history interests, or to assist historical researchers as a librarian or archivist. The emphasis in both course readings and written assignments will on the practical applications of historical research techniques.

Waiver Option: If a student has taken and passed a graduate-level research methods course AND completed a thesis or dissertation as part of a previous graduate degree (as documented by an official transcript), the student can petition the iSchool Graduate Advisor to waive the INFO 285 requirement. A waiver, if granted, does not reduce the total units required for the MLIS degree.

The language needs to say the following -it is updated language

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

Students' work will be evaluated according to the following specific criteria:
Identify research problem, conduct critical literature review and analysis, collect data, develop a conceptual hypothesis and theory, and produce a formalized research proposal or a research report.
The course Canvas site will offer more specific rubrics for the written assignments.

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 IRB training is only graded on a pass/fail basis. The course can be located here: Protecting Human Research Participants (PHRP) Online Training. 

Course Calendar

(Subject to change: the Canvas site will be considered the most current source for deadlines)

Aug. 19 first day of classes (introductions)
Aug 19-Aug 25 Research Methods  
Aug 26-Sept 1 Reference Resources Resource Review Due Sept. 1
Sept 2-Sept 8 Primary & Secondary Sources  
Sept 9-Sept 15 Bibliographic Critique Annotated Bibliography Due Sept. 15
Sept 16-Sept 22 Working with Primary Sources  
Sept 23-Sept 29 Working with Secondary Sources Bibliographic Essay Due Sept. 29
Sept 30-Oct 6 Components of the Research Proposal  
Oct 7-Oct 13 Sources of Research Funding Presentation Wednesday, Oct. 7
Oct 14-Oct 20 [week off]  
Oct 21-Oct 27 Reporting Research Results


Oct 29-Nov 3 [Feedback and consultations on draft]  
Nov 4-Nov 10 The Publication Process  
Nov 11-Nov 17 Introduction to Library History
Nov 18-Nov 24 Regional Library History FINAL PROPOSAL Due Nov. 24
Dec 2-Dec 6 Local Library History Library History Critique Due Dec. 6

WEEKLY READINGS: Please complete any assigned readings each week before viewing the PowerPoint file for the week. Most readings come either from the two required textbooks (available at the SJSU online bookstore) or from supplements provided within the course. 

PARTICIPATION (10% of final grade): Each student is expected to contribute at least one substantial original post to each online discussion board (early in the week!), with substantive comments or critical questions on one or more of the course readings or topics, and/or responses to specific questions that the instructor will raise. Each student is also expected to comment substantively AT LEAST ONCE to other threads of discussion.

Participation in discussion boards supports all of the course CLOs, and thus is a major component of the student's work in the course.

WRITTEN ASSIGNMENTS are due by midnight Pacific Time on the Monday of the week in which they are due. Please verify that your sources are cited properly and consistently according to the citation format of the Chicago Manual of Style; SJSU uses APA citation format in most courses, but the various historical fields use Chicago much more often.  You may review the different citation format at the Chicago Manual of Style. Late assignments are typically assessed a penalty of 0.33 letter grades for each day they are late.

RESOURCE REVIEW (10% of final grade): Each student will compose a brief 1-2 page review of a specific historical reference source of their choice. Please choose a major reference source in an area of particular interest to you, and feel free to consult with me about selections. In your review, you should give a sense for the breadth of information present, the types of primary and/or secondary sources to which your resource can point a user, and the most pertinent strengths, weaknesses, and biases within the specific field of study. Due Sept. 1. The Resource Review supports CLO #1 and CLO #2:

  • Understand the difference between primary and secondary research;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles and processes of conducting research;

LIBRARY HISTORY CRITIQUE (10%): The final weeks of the semester will be devoted to reading published examples of research in the field of library history. You will be writing a brief (1-2 page) evaluation of some library history. Due Dec. 6. The Library History Critique supports CLO #2 and CLO #4:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles and processes of conducting research;
  • Understand appropriate data collection/analysis tools, and ethical concerns related to research

RESEARCH PROPOSAL: The bulk of your work in this course will be a series of assignments taking you through the stages of a complete proposal in historical research. The expectation for each stage is that the student will be able to take the instructor's comments from the previous stage, and apply them with significant expansion and progress over the course of the entire semester:

  • ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY (10%): Select any topic in historical research that is of interest to you – this can be political history, economic history, social history, library history, art history, etc. etc., and clear it with me SOON. For your first stage, you should assemble a bibliography of at least 10 peer-reviewed resources on the topic, and create a bibliography containing proper Chicago Manual citations for each, and 2-3 sentences of evaluative annotations on the source. Due Sept. 15.
  • BIBLIOGRAPHIC ESSAY AND PROBLEM STATEMENT (15%): As an expansion of your first stage, please compose a prose discussion of the state of research into your topic, critically evaluating a more complete bibliography, and identifying a more specific topic for your own hypothetical research project. Due Sept. 29.
  • PRESENTATION (10%): For the single real-time meeting of the course, you should prepare a very brief overview of your research topic, 5 minutes MAXIMUM. You may use Powerpoint or Prezzi, or text alone, etc. Consider this presentation a practical exercise in communicating the purpose and importance of your research to peers. COLLABORATE SESSION Wednesday, Oct. 7.
  • COMPLETE RESEARCH PROPOSAL (15% credit for first draft, 20% for final): Your main contribution to the coursework will be a complete proposal for a historical research project in the topic of your choice, including the bibliographic essay, problem statement, definition of both primary and secondary sources to be consulted, tentative timetable for data collection, and projected reporting of results. A Complete Draft Proposal is due Oct. 27, private conferences with the instructor the week following, Final Proposal due Nov. 22.

The Research Proposal supports all four of the learning objectives for the course:

  • Understand the difference between primary and secondary research;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of fundamental principles and processes of conducting research;
  • Articulate the research method(s) covered in the course, appropriately apply them, and understand their strengths and liabilities;
  • Understand appropriate data collection/analysis tools and ethical concerns related to research.

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:

  • Presnell, J. (2018). The information-literate historian (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. Available through Amazon: 019085149Xarrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Wiegand, W. (2011).  Main Street public library: Community places and reading spaces in the rural heartland, 1876-1956. University of Iowa Press. Available through Amazon: 1609380673arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Recommended Textbooks:

  • Connaway, L., & Radford, M. (2017). Research methods in library and information science (6th ed.). Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 1440834784arrow 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.

icon showing link leads to the PDF file viewer known as Acrobat Reader Download Adobe Acrobat Reader to access PDF files.

More accessibility resources.