LIBR 202-02
LIBR 202-16
Information Retrieval
Spring 2010 Greensheet

Nancy MacKay
Office hours: By e-mail
Location: Oakland, California

Greensheet Links
Textbooks and Readings
Course Requirements
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LIBR 202 Resources
Online Resource
Supplemental Readings
Inmagic Download

This is an online only class, with two non-required Elluminate sessions.  Registered students will receive an access code through around January 18 and must self enroll in the course on ANGEL before January 26.  The course site will open approximately a week before class begins so students can get acquainted on ANGEL.

Course Description

The principles of information organization and retrieval apply to almost every aspect of library and information science, as well as to modern life. This section will take a practical approach to the subject, with an emphasis on applying information retrieval principles to current jobs and real life, as well as library science. Though library applications form the backbone of our study, we will also look at information retrieval in science, business, and other areas of student interest.

We will study the three major components of an information retrieval system and how they relate to each other to meet the needs of the information seeker. First we look at data structures, and how information can be broken down and manipulated. Next we look at how language works in information retrieval; first examining natural language and then structured vocabularies.  Finally we study information retrieval systems from the user point of view by looking at search engines, user interfaces, and user behavior.

This section emphasizes group work and class participation. Students must be prepared to share ideas and real life experience as they apply to the principles we study, and to participate actively in group projects and online discussions.  Class participation will be part of the final grade.

Course Prerequisites

Course Objectives

  • To design, query, and evaluate a computerized information retrieval system
  • To explain fundamental concepts of information-seeking behavior and employ them in the design and evaluation
  • To understand how natural language is used in search and retrieval, and how search results can be improved by using structured vocabularies.
  • To understand metadata and the importance of standards.  To become familiar with library standards such as the USMARC, LC Classification, and Dublin Core.
  • To understand principles of good interface design and be able to evaluate interfaces using those principles.

LIBR 202 supports the following SLIS Core Competencies:

  • Design, query and evaluate information retrieval systems
  • Understand the system of standards and methods used to control and create information structures and apply basic principles involved in the organization and representation of knowledge
  • Describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behavior

Course Requirements

General Expectations
Course work will consist of written lectures, readings, online discussions, two big assignments, several smaller assignments, and a midterm quiz. Though the class is designed to support a variety of learning styles, collaboration and sharing ideas is a requirement.

Students must be comfortable with technology, in particular, Elluminate, DBTextWorks,  ANGEL, Microsoft Word, and Excel.

Students must be willing to work in teams and to take responsibility as a team member. Students must be available to check the course site at least every 48 hours, and during group assignments every 24 hours.

Incompletes will not be given and late assignments are not accepted.


  1. Information Retrieval from the User’s Perspective. (5 points) This group exercise the first week of class gives students the opportunity to experience information retrieval as a user would, without the fore-knowledge of the principles we learn during the semester.
  2. Analyzing data. (5 points). Students will analyze a small collection of images and create a table of attributes and values.
  3. Data structures. (10 points) Students will create a simple data structure based on the table of attributes and values from the previous assignment.
  4. Database. (30 points) Students will design and create a database including data structures, rules for data entry and indexing, as well as practice with controlled vocabulary and natural language descriptors. Emphasis will be on designing a database for the needs of a defined user group.
  5. Evaluating an Information Retrieval System. (30 points) This is a major research paper. Students make an in depth study of an existing information retrieval system and apply all the principles we’ve learned in class. The paper will consist of description, analysis, comparison and usability testing of an information retrieval system of the students' choice.


  • Midterm. (15 points)  This midterm quiz will help the students and the instructor access their grasp of terms and concepts learned in the first half of the course.
  • Participation. (5 points). Students will be graded on participation in ANGEL discussions forums.
  • Extra Credit. Several opportunities throughout the semester.

Elluminate Sessions
There will be 2-3 Elluminate sessions. Attendance is strongly recommended, but sessions will be recorded and archived on the course site for those who can't make it. Sessions will take place on Sunday afternoons at 5 p.m. Pacific Time.


  • Sunday, January 31, 5 p.m. - Course orientation.
  • Sunday March 21, 5 p.m. - Midterm review
  • Sunday, May 2 or 9, 5 p.m. - (tentative, based on student interest). 

Other Requirements

  • Graduate level writing skills
  • Access to a brick and mortar library
  • Reliable internet connection and general computer literacy.

Course Calendar
Our course week will run Sunday  through Saturday. Each week’s lesson will appear on the ANGEL course site on Saturday evening. Most assignments are due Saturdays at 6 p.m., Pacific time There will be two non-required Elluminate sessions described above.  

Dates may change slightly based on class needs.

January 26-30
Getting acquainted 

Begin Assignment 1 due February 6

Group contact sheet due February 1

Post introductions on ANGEL

2 January 31- February 6 Introduction to information retrieval

Elluminate session, January 31, 5 p.m. PST

Team contact list due February 1

February 7-13
The Nature of Information

Begin Assignment 2, due February 13


February 14-20
Access to Information Begin Assignment 3, due March 13
February 21-27
Data Structures  

February 28- March 6
Controlled Vocabulary  
March 7-13
 Library Applications in Information Retrieval Assignment 3 due March 13
March 14-20
Midterm Review   
March 21-27
Midterm Elluminate, March 21, 5 p.m. Pacific Time

Post midterm after Elluminate session, due March 27

Introduce assignments 4 and 5

April 4-10
 Working with DB TextWorks Begin Assignment 4

Turn in topic for assignment 5

April 11-17
April 18-24
User Behavior  
April 25-May 1
Evaluating Information Retrieval Systems  
May 2-8
Catch up week. No new material Assignment 4 due May 8
May 9-15
Trends in information retrieval: Student extra credit presentations   
May 16-17
Wrap-up Assignment 5 due May 17


Participation  5
Group contact list required but not graded
Blackboard introduction required but not graded
Assignment 1 (Team)- Information retrieval from a user perspective 5
Assignment 2 - Analyzing data  5
Assignment 3 - Data structures 10
Assignment 4 - Database 30
Assignment 5 - Evaluation of Information Retrieval System 30
Midterm 15
 Extra credit opportunities to be announced in class  

Textbooks and Readings

Required Textbook:

  • Taylor, A. G. & Joudrey, D. N. (2009). Organization of information 3rd ed. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited. Available through Amazon: 159158700X. arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain
  • Weinberger, D. (2008). Everything is miscellaneous: the power of the new digital disorder. New York: Holt Paperbacks. Available through Amazon: 0805088113. 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;
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA) — 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 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.
  • 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

General Expectations, Rights and Responsibilities of the Student

As members of the academic community, students accept both the rights and responsibilities incumbent upon all members of the institution. Students are encouraged to familiarize themselves with SJSU's policies and practices pertaining to the procedures to follow if and when questions or concerns about a class arises. See University Policy S90-5 at More detailed information on a variety of related topics is available in the SJSU catalog at In general, it is recommended that students begin by seeking clarification or discussing concerns with their instructor. If such conversation is not possible, or if it does not serve to address the issue, it is recommended that the student contact the Department Chair as a next step.

Dropping and Adding

Students are responsible for understanding the policies and procedures about add/drop, grade forgiveness, etc. Refer to the current semester's Catalog Policies section at Add/drop deadlines can be found on the current academic year calendars document on the Academic Calendars webpage at The Late Drop Policy is available at Students should be aware of the current deadlines and penalties for dropping classes.

Information about the latest changes and news is available at the Advising Hub at

Consent for Recording of Class and Public Sharing of Instructor Material

University Policy S12-7,, requires students to obtain instructor's permission to record the course and the following items to be included in the syllabus:

  • "Common courtesy and professional behavior dictate that you notify someone when you are recording him/her. You must obtain the instructor's permission to make audio or video recordings in this class. Such permission allows the recordings to be used for your private, study purposes only. The recordings are the intellectual property of the instructor; you have not been given any rights to reproduce or distribute the material."
    • It is suggested that the syllabus include the instructor's process for granting permission, whether in writing or orally and whether for the whole semester or on a class by class basis.
    • In classes where active participation of students or guests may be on the recording, permission of those students or guests should be obtained as well.
  • "Course material developed by the instructor is the intellectual property of the instructor and cannot be shared publicly without his/her approval. You may not publicly share or upload instructor generated material for this course such as exam questions, lecture notes, or homework solutions without instructor consent."

Academic integrity

Your commitment, as a student, to learning is evidenced by your enrollment at San Jose State University. The University Academic Integrity Policy F15-7 at requires you to be honest in all your academic course work. Faculty members are required to report all infractions to the office of Student Conduct and Ethical Development. The Student Conduct and Ethical Development website is available at

Campus Policy in Compliance with the American Disabilities Act

If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, or if you need to make special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible, or see me during office hours. Presidential Directive 97-03 at requires that students with disabilities requesting accommodations must register with the Accessible Education Center (AEC) at to establish a record of their disability.

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