School of Information and Library Science
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
INLS 781 - Proposal Development
[Last Updated: 2015-09-30]

Fall 2015
Meeting Time: Wednesday, 12:20-3:05 (meets August 19-September 30)
Location: Manning 307
Credits: 1.5
Instructor: Cal Lee
Office: 212 Manning
Phone: 919-962-7024 (email is preferred)
E-Mail: callee [_at_] ils [_dot_] unc [_dot_] edu, kamwoods [_at_] email [_dot_] unc [_dot_] edu
Office Hours: Tuesday, 12:00-1:00 or by appointment
Course Web Site:


During this course, each student will develop a proposal for the work to be completed during the following semester, in the master's paper/project (INLS 992). It is assumed that class members have taken the prerequisite course, INLS 581.



Special Needs: If you feel that you may need an accommodation for a disability or have any other special need, please make an appointment to discuss this with one or both of the instructors. We will best be able to address special circumstances if we know about them early in the semester. Our office hours and contact information are listed at the beginning of this syllabus.

Diversity Statement

"In support of the University’s diversity goals and the mission of the School of Information and Library Science, SILS embraces diversity as an ethical and societal value. We broadly define diversity to include race, gender, national origin, ethnicity, religion, social class, age, sexual orientation and physical and learning ability. As an academic community committed to preparing our graduates to be leaders in an increasingly multicultural and global society we strive to:

The statement represents a commitment of resources to the development and maintenance of an academic environment that is open, representative, reflective and committed to the concepts of equity and fairness."

- The faculty of the School of Information and Library Science (


  1. Complete required readings and participate in class discussions.

  2. Complete, submit and engage in class activities related to preliminary products.

  3. Complete and submit final proposal on October 7 (to Sakai).


All assignments are due at the beginning of the class in which they are due. Peer review should be completed and returned by the Saturday following the assignment due date by 1:00PM.

Your final proposal will consist of three chapters

  1. Introduction - provides an overview of the problem in the world that you've identified, a specific research question and motivation for pursuing your chosen research study
  2. Literature Review - synthesizes sources that already exist that are relevant to your intended research and (very importantly) what gap there is in the literature that you'll be addressing with your research
  3. Research Design - methods chapter, which describes the data collection and analysis methods to be used to address the research problem/question.

Due dates for the components are below:

Assignment Due for Peer Review Peer Review Due Due to Instructor

Assignment 0: Initial Topic Ideas (one page maximum)

    August 23, 2015
Assignment 1: Research Question and Motivation (one page maximum) September 2, 12:20PM In class September 4, 5:00PM
Assignment 2: Literature review search plan September 9, 12:20PM In class Not Applicable
Assignment 3: Literature review September 16, 12:20PM September 20 at 10pm September 23, 12:20PMpm
Assignment 4: Research design September 30, 12:20PM In class October 2, 5:00PM
Assignment 5: Full proposal document Not Applicable Not Applicable October 7, 5:00PM


It is very important that you both attribute your sources and avoid excessive use of quotes (see separate handout called "In Your Own Words"). Be aware of the University of North Carolina policy on plagiarism. Your written work must be original. Ask if you have any doubts about what this means.

All cases of plagiarism (unattributed quotation or paraphrasing) of anyone else's work, whether from someone else's answers to homework or from published materials, will be officially reported and dealt with according to UNC policies (Instrument of Student Judicial Governance, Section II.B.1. and III.D.2,


The most important measures of your performance in this and all other classes at SILS will be your ability to engage in challenging materials with your fellow students; your reputation for insights and professionalism among your peers and with your instructors; your integration of course material with the other things you are learning both inside and outside the classroom; and your ability to apply what you've learned in your future career. However, the conventions of academia dictate that I also assign labels (called grades) to your work on assignments and for the course as a whole.

Based on UNC Registrar Policy for graduate-level courses (, both assignment and semester grades will be H, P, L or F. Few students will obtain an "H," which signifies an exceptionally high level of performance (higher than an "A" in an A-F systems). The following is a more detailed breakdown:*
H Superior work: complete command of subject, unusual depth, great creativity or originality
P+ Above average performance: solid work somewhat beyond what was required and good command of the material
P Satisfactory performance that meets course requirements (expected to be the median grade of all students in the course)
P- Acceptable work in need of improvement
L Unacceptable graduate performance: substandard in significant ways
F Performance that is seriously deficient and unworthy of graduate credit

*Note: The above breakdown is for individual assignments. Final grades in the course will not reflect + or - designations (i.e. there will be Ps but no P+s or P-s).


The required text for the course is:

Punch, Keith. Developing Effective Research Proposals (2nd ed.). London: Sage, 2007.

We will also read several chapters from the following book:

Wildemuth, Barbara M. Applications of Social Research Methods to Questions in Information and Library Science. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2009.

Both of the above books are available on SILS Reserves on the first floor of Manning Hall (behind the SILS Library help desk).

Additional required readings are listed on the class schedule. You'll also be reading independently on topics of relevance ot your proposed research. You will be expected to report on some of these readings during class discussion, as noted on the class schedule.

Week 1 (August 19) - Introduction to Research Proposals

Assignment 0 (Ungraded) - Due Sunday, August 23 by 5pm to Sakai:

Submit a short document (maximum of one page), that laborates your initial ideas about your potential masters paper research. It should include topic area(s), possible data sources, and questions that interest you.

Note that this is not a graded assignment. It's just a chance to share your initial ideas about what you'd like to pursue in your masters paper.


Punch, Chapter 1, Introduction

Punch, Chapter 2, The Proposal - Readers, Expectations and Functions

Punch, Chapter 7, Tactics

Punch, Appendix 2, Questions to Guide Proposal Development

Week 2 (August 26)

Discuss potential research topics and motivations for pursuing them

Week 3 (September 2)

Assignment 1: Research question and motivation due by start of class for peer review; revised draft due to instructor (through Sakai) on September 4 by 5:00PM


Punch, Chapter 3, A General Framework for Developing Proposals

At least one of the award-winning SILS master's papers identified in Sakai

At least one reseach article - based on a specific study and not e.g. a literature review article - that's related to your intended research

Week 4 (September 9)

Assignment 2: Literature review search plan due by start of class for peer review


Punch, Chapter 4, The Role of Theory and Dealing with the Literature

Webster, Jane and Richard T. Watson. "Analyzing the Past to Prepare for the Future: Writing a Literature Review." MIS Quarterly 26, No. 2 (2002): xiii-xxiii.

Week 5 (September 16)

Assignment 3: Literature review due by start of class for peer review (Be sure to complete your peer review by September 20 at 10:00pm)


Punch, Chapter 5, Methods

Punch, Chapter 8, Examples of Proposals (Be prepared to discuss: Which is the closest match for the proposal that you'd like to write? Why? How will your proposal differ from the example that you've identified?)

Week 6 (September 23)


Punch, Chapter 6, Writing the Proposal

Week 7 (September 30)

Assignment 4: Research design due for peer review by start of class; revised document due to isntructor (through Sakai) by October 2 at 5:00PM

Final Proposal Due - Wednesday, October 7 at 5:00 PM to Sakai