University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
School of Information and Library Science

INLS 500, Human Information Interactions, Spring 2014


On this page: Assn 1, Event Diary and Analysis / Assn 2, Evidence Summary / Assn 3, System/Service Proposal / Assn 4, Analysis of Scholarly Communication Example / Participation / Grading

Other class pages: Syllabus / Schedule / Additional Readings / Sakai site

The course assignments are described in detail here. The due dates are also shown on the class schedule. An explanation of the grading policy is at the end of this page.

All of your written assignments will be turned in via the Drop Box on Sakai, so they will need to be in digital form. Word documents, Open Office documents, or pdf documents are all acceptable; if you prefer to work in another format, please check with me first to ensure that I can read and comment on your completed assignments.

Assignment 1: Diary and Analysis of an Information-Seeking Event (20%)

[Based on an assignment prepared by Dr. Verna Pungitore, SLIS, Indiana University, with modifications by Dr. Deborah Barreau and myself]

As information professionals, we are concerned with designing systems and services that help our clients. For this assignment, you are the client. You will keep a short diary over a period of hours or days that covers an information-seeking experience with an identifiable beginning and end. It does not have to be a unique event and it may or may not have been resolved. You will write up what you thought, felt, and did, and how you understand the experience based upon our readings and discussions in class. The two deliverables for this assignment are (1) the diary itself, and (2) your analysis of the event described in the diary.

The diary

Start by describing your information need. This can be any kind of problem and need not be something you take to an information system. For example, my home computer died suddenly last November. I needed to buy a new computer as soon as possible, so I did some preliminary shopping (both online and in a Best Buy store) and also consulted with our desktop specialist in SILS IT support. Through an iterative process, in which additional focus was gained with each iteration, I eventually settled on a particular computer and the other peripherals I would need to accompany it. This process occurred over several weeks; for your assignment, you should choose an information need that is occurring during the period in which you're working on the assignment.

In most cases your problem should be more complex than finding a fact, but there are situations when that type of problem is appropriate. For example, "When did Americans first land on the moon?" is a straightforward question that can be answered easily and it doesn't offer much of a challenge for deciding where and how to look. However, "When were the plans and strategy for America's Apollo missions to the moon finalized?" is a more difficult question for most people. It requires some knowledge of NASA's planning and approval process as well as a slightly broader understanding of the space program. For NASA historians and people who follow the space program closely, the second question may be as straightforward as the first one, but for most people, it will require more preparation.

Take notes or record your experience in some way. Try to capture as much detail about the process as possible. How did you know when you needed to look for information? What steps did you take and what motivated you along the way? Did you make any incidental discoveries that influenced your behavior? When and why did you finally stop looking (or are you still looking)? How did your emotions affect the search process?

The diary does not need to be neat and orderly, but it should provide enough detail so that I can tell what you thought, did, and felt. It's more important that you record what's happening and what you're thinking/feeling as it's happening than that you present it neatly. It only needs to be neat enough so that you can interpret and remember what happened for your later analysis of the event.

While the diary is a necessary deliverable for this assignment, it will play only a minor role in the grading. I will refer to it, as needed, to understand and evaluate your analysis of the event.

Intermediate deliverable: To ensure that you're on the right track with this assignment, you should turn in a very brief (1 sentence - 1 paragraph) description of the event you expect to observe, as you begin the assignment. That description is due no later than February 18.

The analysis

Assess which (if any) of the information seeking and use models we have discussed in class apply to your situation - as motivation, as information-seeking process, or as use.

Write a brief report (3-4 single-spaced pages) that interprets the experience. Concentrate on analyzing what happened instead of recounting each step. For example, it is more important to hear your reactions to what you did than to hear what you did - how important was the information to you? What sources were consulted? What barriers or surprises did you experience? If you consulted systems or online sources, describe the interaction and why it worked, or did not. If you consulted other people, describe the interaction and how you were able to convey your need to this person. Why do you think your experience was a successful (or unsuccessful) one? What did you learn that you did not know beforehand? What would you do differently if a similar problem arises in the future?

Be sure to relate your observations to readings and discussions from class. Cite them as appropriate.

Evaluation criteria

Grades will be based upon the quality and depth of your analysis of the experience. A description of the need and what motivated it, any obstacles you experienced, sources used, tasks performed, and results obtained along with your evaluation of those results should be included in the paper. While this paper is relatively informal in style, it should be formatted using a standard publication style (APA Style is recommended unless you already have a favorite) and should include citations to the literature as appropriate.

Due date: Thursday, March 20

Assignment 2: Evidence Summary (15%)

This assignment is modeled on the evidence summaries regularly published in the journal, Evidence-Based Library & Information Practice ( As you can see from examining a few examples in the journal, each evidence summary focuses on a particular research study that has implications for the practice of the information professions. While most of the evidence summaries in the journal do focus on the practice of librarianship, this approach can (and will, in this assignment) be extended to any information practice setting that you want to explore for your future career.

Selecting an article

Your first step is to select an article that provides evidence that you'd like to summarize.

Writing the evidence summary

The evidence summary itself is written in a very structured format - basically an extended abstract. It begins with brief descriptions of the study's objective(s), its design, its setting, its subjects/participants, and the methods used to carry it out. Then it reports the main results and the main conclusions that can be drawn from those results. Finally, the author of the summary comments on the implications of those conclusions for practice in the relevant information setting. Additional references pertinent to the commentary should be cited, as appropriate; these can include references in the original article but should also include relevant references not cited in the article being examined.

The full evidence summary, excluding title, study citation, and additional references, should be 1000-1500 words. You should turn in a copy of the study being examined when you turn in your summary.

Sharing the evidence summary with the class

During the appropriate class session, you will be asked to present a brief overview of the article you read: What were its main points? What did you learn from it that was pertinent to the topic being discussed in class that day? The presentation will be informal, in the sense that it will involve no slides and will be done from your seat in class. The oral presentation should take no more than 3-4 minutes of class time.

On the same day as the oral presentation, you will post a message to the class discussion forum (in Sakai). It should briefly summarize the article, and should also be influenced by your presentation, in terms of incorporating any questions/issues raised by your classmates. The posting should be 300-500 words. The full evidence summary should be attached to the posting to provide more detail, and you can also attach a copy of the full article.

In addition to summarizing and commenting on the article, your posting should aim to promote further discussion of the article among your classmates. To achieve this goal, your posting should conclude with one or two specific questions that you expect will stimulate discussion. Some ideas for formulating effective discussion questions are available at:

You are also responsible for monitoring the discussion of your article over the next week after your summary is presented/posted. Continue to ask follow-up questions or post responses to messages from your classmates. In other words, actively moderate the online discussion.

Evaluation criteria

The evidence summary will be evaluated on the accuracy of its description of the original article, your understanding of the conclusions of the study being examined (their validity, their pertinence to particular information practice settings), and the depth and validity of your commentary on the study being examined.

Due date: To be scheduled in alignment with the class schedule

Assignment 3: System/Service Proposal (35%)

In this assignment, you will develop a proposal for a new service for a particular client population of a particular information organization. Some examples might include the development of a public library instruction program for retirees in the community, new ways to track IT support questions related to a litigation support system in a law firm, or a new institutional repository intended to handle the multimedia materials created by performing arts faculty on a university campus. (These examples are intended to be suggestive, not comprehensive or restrictive.)

You will first identify the particular client population, and learn as much about them as possible. This analysis will be evidence-based, i.e., it will rely on prior studies and/or descriptions of the client population and their information behaviors as reported in the literature. In class, we will discuss the role of evidence in making practice-based decisions and plans, based on our reading of Koufogiannakis' (2013) keynote address at EBLIP7.

To support your analysis, you will be expected to assemble and asses the relevant literature. The methods by which you search for the literature to underpin your analysis will be documented in detail in your final paper. In addition, your final paper will include a summary of your findings about the population of interest.

The next step is to plan a service or system that would be useful to the client population. The service or system may have been implemented with some other population in the past or in some other organizational setting; you will need to establish that it is novel for your particular population and setting. In particular, the rationale for your proposal should be clearly connected to your (new) knowledge about the client population.

The final proposal package will consist of three parts:

Each step in this process of developing the proposal package is described in more detail below.

Identify the population and setting of interest

As an information professional, you will regularly be expected to develop a new service or system to support a particular set of clients to perform a particular information-related task. You'll get some practice with that professional responsibility while completing this assignment.

For the purposes of the assignment, choose a setting and client group of particular interest to you. The setting might be a library in a particular institutional setting (e.g., a public library in a mid-sized town in NC or a library in an elementary school serving kindergarten through third grade), a system development team (e.g., the unit responsible for a pharmaceutical company's knowledge management activities or the unit responsible for a financial services company's human resources system), or some other setting in which information professionals are employed.

You will also choose a particular client group relevant to that setting. In the examples of organizations just provided, corresponding client groups might be the teenagers that could potentially use the public library, second-grade teachers, members of the pharmaceutical company's marketing division, and hiring managers/supervisors distributed throughout the financial services company. So that this assignment will be most useful to you, I would encourage you to select a setting and client group that you anticipate/hope will be part of your professional future.

Intermediate deliverable: You will write one paragraph describing the setting you've selected, and one paragraph defining/describing the client group (based on your current knowledge). In addition, write one paragraph about why you selected this setting and client group. This setting and client group description is due on Thursday, February 13.

Assemble and assess the evidence related to the population and setting of interest

You will begin by planning the ways in which you will assemble the relevant evidence. You should decide which databases/sources you will search and what search strategy(ies) you will use in each. You should specify inclusion and exclusion criteria for which studies will be included in your summary. You should aim for a comprehensive set of evidence to support your proposal. Start with those articles that are most core to your interests (i.e., directly addressing some aspect of your selected population within a similar setting) and work your way out from there. You may need to adjust the scope of your population as you learn more about them; please discuss such adjustments with me as you go along.

Bates (1989, p.412) suggests a variety of ways to identify relevant literature; these can serve as a guide for your own literature searching. They of course include subject searches in relevant databases, but they also include footnote chasing and citation searching, author searching, and browsing journal tables of contents and bookshelves that might be particularly fruitful. You are expected to incorporate all or most of these methods in your own searching.

The process of searching the literature will help you to identify possibilities for a new service or system that can be the focus of your proposal. For example, you may have focused on elderly users of public libraries. Studies of their current information use may conclude that they are interested in accessing more information about current politics, but are hampered from reading current materials by decreasing visual abilities. In such a situation, you may propose a program for loaning e-readers to the library's clients, with easy interactions for increasing the font size.

After you've assembled some evidence (i.e., articles or publications), you will need to assess them for their quality, relevance and usefulness for your purposes. Your quality criteria might include such characteristics as the validity of the research design, the quality and size of the sample included in the study, the validity of the analysis conducted, and the credibility of the conclusions as they relate to the underlying data. Your relevance/usefulness criteria might include such characteristics as the match between your population of interest and the study sample, and the similarity of the study context and your own setting of interest. Additional criteria may also apply, as you make decisions about which evidence to weigh most heavily in developing your proposal.

There will be a lot of variability in the number of articles and other materials you might use for this assignment, but here is a bit of guidance on scope/scale: I would expect that you might identify hundreds of potentially useful documents through your literature search; I would expect that you would closely examine the abstracts of over 100 documents; I would expect that you would examine the full text of 30-60 articles; I would expect that you would identify and read 20-30 articles to be cited in your summary of the characteristics of your selected population.

Intermediate deliverable: You will develop a preliminary plan for identifying the literature to include in your review. The plan should include the list of databases/sources to be searched, the search strategies to be used, and the inclusion/exclusion criteria to be used to evaluate the literature retrieved. The preliminary plan is due on Thursday, February 27.

Final deliverable: In an appendix to your final proposal, you will list each database searched. For each database/source, you will provide the details of the search terms/strategies used and the number of items retrieved with each strategy. You should also describe your inclusion/exclusion criteria (e.g., range of years or other limits you placed on your searches) and the criteria you used to make judgments about the relevance or usefulness of the items you selected. This appendix should be a bulleted list or outline format, rather than narrative. There's no limit on its length, but it is likely to be 1-3 pages, single-spaced.

Extracting and synthesizing knowledge

As you identify and assess the relevant evidence about your population of interest, you will be developing your own knowledge about that population and their information interactions. As an appendix to your proposal, you will summarize what you learned. What do we know about their general characteristics? What do we know about their information needs, their information seeking, their use of information, and the context in which all these information behaviors occur?

As an appendix to your final proposal, you will summarize your knowledge of the population of interest, within the context of your chosen setting. Begin your summary with a revised version of the original description/definition of the population and setting that you created at the beginning of this assignment, to provide a bit of context. Then provide a summary of what you know about that population. Be sure to provide details about the population that will support your proposal.

Intermediate deliverable: Provide a detailed outline, a concept map/matrix, or a similar sketch of what you've learned about the population. Include the preliminary list of references to the articles you're using as evidence. This preliminary outline is due on Tuesday, March 25.

Final deliverable: In an appendix to your final proposal, summarize our current knowledge about your population of interest, particularly in connection with your selected setting and the focus of your proposal. This appendix should be 4-6 pages, single-spaced. The list of references should be included on separate pages.

Proposing the development of a new system or service

The purpose of the investigations you've done for this assignment is to understand the population of interest well enough to design and develop a new system or service that will be useful to them in addressing some of their information needs. Based on what you've learned about your selected population, you will propose such a system or service. It does not have to be the first of its type in the world, but it should be plausible that it has not yet been implemented within your chosen setting.

As Koufogiannakis (2013) points out, information work occurs within organizational settings, so an initial proposal is not the same as agreement to implement that proposal. Thus, your proposal will need to "sell" your idea to your colleagues (or at least your supervisor, to carry forward). You must describe the system or service you're proposing, but you also must persuasively argue that it will serve an important purpose in the lives of the population of interest and that it will be feasible for your institution to implement it. The first of those sets of arguments will be based on logical connections back to the summary of the characteristics of the population; don't repeat all the details in your proposal, but do clearly connect the proposal to the findings in your summary of the population's characteristics. The second set of arguments will be based on the practical considerations within your imagined setting; be realistic but not pessimistic.

The proposal will be written in the form of a memo, from you to the leader of your information organization. It should be no longer than 2 single-spaced pages.

Intermediate deliverable: Provide a one-paragraph description of the system or service you will propose. This brief description is due on Tuesday, April 1.

Final proposal package

The summary of what you learned about the population, and the detailed listing of your search strategies will be attached to your proposal memo. The final proposal package will consist of:

The final/complete proposal package is due on Thursday, April 17.

Evaluation criteria

The final memo will be evaluated based on the thoroughness and rigor of the literature review methods, the quality of the synthesis of the literature included in the summary of your population's characteristics, the logic connecting those findings to your proposal, the usefulness, originality and feasibility of your proposal, and the clarity of expression of the final product.

Summary of deliverables and due dates for Assignment 3, System/Service Proposal

Brief definition/description of population of interest is due on Thursday, February 13.
Preliminary plan for identifying the literature is due on Tuesday,February 25.
Outline of findings about the population is due on Tuesday, March 25.
Preliminary description of proposal is due on Tuesday, April 1.
Final proposal package is due on Thursday, April 17.

Assignment 4: In-Depth Analysis of an Example of Scholarly Communication (20%)

To be completed in teams of 2-4 people. Teams will be formed in class on Tuesday, April 8.

In this assignment, you will work with your team to review and reflect on an example of scholarly communication. Specifically, your team will choose and analyze a set of related scholarly articles, including references and citations from, to, and among them.

Selecting the articles

Choose a small set of articles (at least one for each member of your team, with a minimum of 3 articles for the team) from a concept area or research area of particular interest to the team.

The set can include one or more of the articles from class (required or optional readings), one or more of the articles cited in something you're reading for class, or it can include a different set of articles altogether. Any scholarly articles within the scope of INLS 500 are eligible for inclusion, in terms of their topic area.

The set of articles should include several different authors or research groups. While some overlap in authorship is acceptable, selecting the entire set from the works of one principal investigator or team leader is not appropriate for this assignment. Please see me if you have questions about whether the set of articles you've selected meets this criterion.

The articles should have been published sometime between 1960-2010. The reason for  choosing older papers is that it often takes two years or more for  papers to be cited in the literature and their potential impact to be visible.

In addition, one or more of the articles should have been deemed significant. In other words, it/they must have been cited at least 20 times in the scholarly literature since being published.

It is also required that each article in the set be directly linked to at least one other article in the set, i.e., it must cite or be cited by at least one other article in the set.

Intermediate deliverable: A bibliography of the articles your team has identified for this analysis is due on Tuesday, April 15.

Analysis of the article

Write an analysis of each article in your set. The analysis should reflect your team's impressions of the paper with respect to the article's structure and content. The review should describe what you found useful in the article, what you liked about it, what the article's deficiencies or limitations are, and how the article has influenced your thinking about the field or about practice. You should relate your discussion to other readings or topics from the class.

Pay particular attention to the visual elements of the paper - how it is structured, illustrated, and how the ideas are presented. How successful was the author (or authors) in making an argument or conveying their ideas? What appealed to you about the presentation (structure, illustrations, writing style, length, level of detail, etc.)? How much of the article's appeal was due to your own point of view, preferences, or familiarity with the topic? Who was the intended audience for the paper and how is this made evident?

Note: It may be more fun to be critical, but one of the goals of this assignment is to recognize that the author is trying to make a point, to convey information that he/she/they believe is important, so it is important to appreciate that and place your comments in context. Consider the target audience when assessing the appropriateness of form and content. When the authors have failed in their effort, be precise about how they failed and offer suggestions for improvement.

Analysis of the scholarly context of the article

To understand the scholarly context of this article, you will analyze its references and the citations to this paper.

Begin by examining the reference lists in your selected papers. How old are the citations? Who wrote the work that the author(s) cited? Is the author's (or authors') prior work cited? In what journals or other media were the references published? What clues do the references give you about the purpose of the paper or the intended audience? How much overlap is there between the reference lists of the several articles in your selected set?

Your next step is to discover who has cited the papers you selected. You may check the following online citation indexes: ISI Web of Science (available online through the UNC Library e-research tools), Scopus (available online through the UNC Library e-research tools), Google Scholar, CiteSeer X (from Penn State University), the ACM Digital Library (for some technical papers), and/or other online databases that might include your paper and that include citation data. At a minimum, conduct citation searches in (1) the ISI Web of Science database or Scopus and (2) at least one of the other citation databases. Be sure to keep track of which citations were discovered in which database.

Write up your citation analysis. How many times has each of the selected articles been cited? Who has cited each? Are there examples of bibliographic coupling (i.e., where two or more of your selected articles are citing the same article/document)? In what fields/disciplines are your selected articles cited? What do these citations tell you about the importance (or lack of importance) of this work? If you feel the paper has not received the attention it deserves, reflect on why that may be so. If the paper has received more attention than it deserves, reflect on why that may be so. What do the citations tell you about the scholarly network in which the author(s) work?

Finally, examine the context of citations to your papers. Choose at least one citation to each of your selected papers and examine it directly. Find the point(s) in each paper at which the selected paper is cited. In which section of the paper is it cited? What does the citing author say about it? Is it cited in combination with any other papers? What does the citation context tell you about the influence of your selected paper? In addition, analyze in a similar way any instances that you found in which multiple papers from your set of selected papers were cited in the same article/document.

In evaluating the citations, what, if anything, did you learn about citation behaviors or about the citation sources themselves? (Feel free to graphically represent some of your findings, if that would be useful in discussing them.) Based on your analysis, are there particular sources, categories of readers, topics, or functions that may have found the paper particularly useful?

Writing up your analysis

Write up what your team has learned in a brief paper, 6-8 pages, single-spaced. Be sure to include the references to all the specific papers that you'll want to discuss (i.e., the original set of papers, possibly one or more references from each, and several examples of papers citing papers in your selected set). Your writing style for this paper should be relatively formal/academic, in comparison with other assignments in this course.

Evaluation criteria

Grades will be based on evidence of your understanding of the selected papers, the depth and thoroughness of your analysis of the set of papers and their scholarly context, evidence of your understanding of scholarly communication and scholars' use of information, and clarity of expression.

Due date: 8am, Friday, May 2

Class Participation (10%)

This class is a cooperative venture toward which you are encouraged and expected to contribute. This includes asking questions and sharing insights from class readings and other course content. The purpose of the discussions is to help you to think critically about research and theory and the implications of research and theory for the practice of the information professions.

Read at least the required readings before each class session; dip into the additional readings as you are able. For each reading, as appropriate, consider:

There are a variety of ways in which you can contribute to the class discussion of each reading. These include:

As part of your class participation, you are expected to react to the evidence summaries posted by your classmates. Plan to respond to at least three of those during the semester; your responses should be posted within a few days of the evidence summary presentation in class.

Evaluation criteria

Class participation will be evaluated on the substance and quality of your comments, both in class and on the online discussion board.


UNC-CH graduate students are graded on the H/P/L/F scale. The following definitions of these grades will be used for this course. While assignments are not graded "on a curve," most grades for graduate students are expected to be P's.

Grading scale for INLS 500 (graduate students)
Letter grade Numeric range Description of grade
H 95-100 High Pass: Clear excellence; beyond expectations for the course.
P 80-94 Pass: Entirely satisfactory; fully meets expectations for the course.
L 70-79 Low Pass: Minimally acceptable; clear weaknesses in performance.
F Below 70 Fail: Unacceptable performance.
IN NA Work incomplete.


Grading scale for INLS 500 (undergraduate students)
Letter grade Numeric range Description of grade
A 95-100 Mastery of course content at the highest level of attainment that can reasonably be expected of students at a given stage of development.
A- 90-94  
B+ 88-89  
B 86-87 Strong performance demonstrating a high level of attainment for a student at a given stage of development.
B- 84-85  
C+ 82-83  
C 80-81 A totally acceptable performance demonstrating an adequate level of attainment for a student at a given stage of development.
C- 78-79  
D+ 74-77  
D 70-73 A marginal performance in the required exercises demonstrating a minimal passing level of attainment.
F Below 70 For whatever reason, an unacceptable performance. The F grade indicates that the student's performance in the required exercises has revealed almost no understanding of the course content.
IN NA Work incomplete.


Creative Commons LicenseThis INLS 500 website, UNC-CH, 2014, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License, and benefitted from the earlier development of this course by Deborah Barreau, Laura Sheble, Ruth Palmquist, Kaitlin Costello, and Earl Bailey. Address all comments and questions to Barbara M. Wildemuth at This page was last modified on April 3, 2014, by Barbara M. Wildemuth.