INFO 202-11
INFO 202-19
Information Retrieval System Design
Fall 2021 Syllabus

Dr. Mimi Zhang
Office Hours: Available by appointment

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

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning August 19th 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

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

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 Core Courses and Electives.

Technology Requirements


and Due Dates

Learning Objectives 
and Competencies

Portion of
Course Grade

Assignments: Database Design

Exercise 1 Implement a Data Structure (using WebDataPro): due on 8/28/2021

Exercise 2 Create Structured Metadata

  • Part 1 Identify Attributes: due on 9/4/2021
  • Part 2 Design a Data Structure: due on 9/11/2021
  • Part 3 Reflection: due on 9/18/2021

Exercise 3 Create Standards for Database Content - Writing a Rule: due on 9/18/2021

Group Project 1 Database Design

  • Alpha Prototype: due on 10/2/2021
  • Beta Prototype: due on 10/9/2021
  • Group's Evaluation: due on 10/16/2021


E, F, G, H








Assignments: Vocabulary Design

Exercise 4 Vocabulary Design Basics: due on 10/23/2021

Group Project 3 Designing Vocabulary for Target User Group: due on 11/13/2021


F, G



Assignments: Website Design

Group Project 2 Conduct User Research - Card Sorting: due on 11/6/2021

Group Project 4 Evaluate & Design Websites: due on 12/4/2021


F, H




Forum 1: Organizing Things: due on 9/25/2021

Forum 2: Evaluating Searches: due on 10/30/2021

Forum 3: Using Websites: due on 11/20/2021


E, G, H





Peer Evaluation for group projects

N/A 8%
Total   100%

General Requirements
Check the course site daily for announcements and discussion posts. Submit assignments by midnight Pacific on the due date. Late submissions are not accepted except in cases of serious illness or family emergency.

Textbooks & Readings
There is one required textbook, listed below; refer to the ordering instructions provided. eBook ($6.95) and softcover editions ($31.89) are available; students often find that having both formats is helpful. Additional readings may be posted to the course site.

Course Calendar
A course calendar is available from the course site at the start of the semester.

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 Topics

Lesson  Topics
1 Introduction to the course & Overview of course concepts:
  • Science and practice
  • Information science and library science
  • Information retrieval
2 Introduction to IR systems and system design issues:
  • IR systems for search & navigation
  • Introduction to metadata
  • Metadata systems
  • Hierarchical organization
3 Designing for search:
  • Databases
  • Data structures
  • Metadata
  • Representation of information
  • Descriptive & subject access
  • Relevance
4 Design processes:
  • Eliciting information needs
  • Stages in the design process
  • Standards
  • Introduction to user research
  • Introduction to evaluation
5 User research:
  • Card sort & other techniques
  • Understanding user information-seeking
6 Searching:
  • Boolean logic
  • Proximity operators
  • Inverted files
  • Relationships between data structures & search options
  • PageRank (Optional)
7  Evaluation:
  • Evaluating individual searches
  • Precision & recall
  • Evaluating IR systems
  • Other criteria for evaluation
  • A/B Testing (Optional)
8  Designing for navigation:
  • Web structures
  • Designing sitemaps
  • Hierarchies: when to be formally correct, when not to be
  • Methods for design: usability heuristics, HCI factors
9  New developments & trends:
  • Historical perspectives & current trends in information retrieval

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.). (2021). Information retrieval system design: Principles & practice (6.1 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.

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

More accessibility resources.