Course Description

INLS 500 is a course that surveys human information interactions through broad examination of information science literature. Students examine cognitive, social, organizational, institutional, and behavioral approaches to understanding interactions between people and information. Emphasis is placed on the role of the information professional or information scientist as mediator, and students are encouraged to apply and analyze current events and situations.

This course undergirds much of the SILS curriculum because it introduces students to core concepts that have implications for the practice of information science and librarianship. It is expected that it will be taken during the first or second semester of the student's career at SILS.


Students completing this course will:


As this course provides an overview of human information interactions, your readings will range from theories and models of information science to empirical investigations of information behaviors. For some of you, these readings will be different from what you have read in the past. For some students, it may be a difficult process to develop an understanding of theory and empirical social science. Others may experience the difficulty described by Marcia Bates in one of the readings for our second class session,

"Over many years of teaching, I have observed that master's students in information science complete the mental transformation to thinking like information specialists within a few months. Often they have considerable difficulties during the first few weeks of the program, because at first it feels alien to think about a resource in terms of the features that matter to the organization and retrieval of it, rather than in terms of mastering is content." (Bates, 1999, p. 1046).

As your instructor, I will provide you with materials and support to help you acquire and apply the knowledge and skills you gain through the course. Our class sessions will provide opportunities to refine your understanding of the theories, concepts or studies from the readings, engage in meaningful discussion, and explore and reflect upon the implications for practice. Assignments for this course are designed to provide an opportunity to reflect upon and apply what you have learned.

I expect that you will take responsibility for your part of the learning experience. Your work for this class including preparing for class, participating in discussions and in-class activities, and completing individual and group assignments. Your preparation for each class meeting is the key to getting the most out of each class's activities.

Preparing for Class

As this is a "survey" course, students will be expected to complete readings in preparation for each class meeting. The assigned readings are listed on the course schedule and will be made available electronically through the UNC libraries, and the Sakai site for the course. No textbook is required.


A typical course session will include some combination of the following elements:

Assignments and Evaluation

The course grade will be determined by a combination of individual and group assignments as well as class participation. The assignments page for the course provides the details, due dates and evaluation criteria for each assignment.

  1. Mini-assignments (15%): You will complete 6 mini-assignments which include 2 audio or video responses and 4 written reflections.
  2. Diary and analysis of an information-seeking event (20%): For this assignment, you will describe and analyze an information-seeking event using the theories, models and vocabulary covered in class and in the readings.
  3. System/service proposal (25%): For this assignment, you will develop a brief proposal for a new service or system for a specific client population in a specific information organization using evidence from the literature on the information needs and behaviors of your client group.
  4. Analysis of Scholarly Communication (20%): In teams of 4 students, you will select a set of related articles and analyze the structure and content of each paper, as well as the way it has been used by other scholars (i.e., through an analysis of their citations to it). All members of the team will receive the same grade for the project.
  5. Class participation (20%): Prepare for discussion and application of assigned (and optional) readings. Participate in the class discussions and activities both in class and online. Discuss responses to mini-assignments as assigned during the semester.

Submitting Assignments

Submit assignments in .pdf format using the Assignments tool in Sakai unless otherwise specified in the assignment details. If you encounter any problems submitting through Sakai, it is your responsibility to let me know as soon as possible and before the deadline.

Assignments are due the start of class on the day that they due unless a different time is specified. Late assignments will be penalized 10% per day and no assignments will be accepted more than 3 days (72 hours) after the deadline. Requests for an extension may be granted in extenuating circumstances. Please contact me as soon as possible to request an extension. Only in rare circumstances will an extension be granted without an advance request.


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 Ps.

Additional information about grading at UNC can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin and the Graduate School Handbook.

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
A 95-100
A- 90-94
B+ 88-89
B 86-87
B- 84-85
C+ 82-83
C 80-81
C- 78-79
D+ 74-77
D 70-73
F Below 70


Honor Code

The UNC Honor Code as described in the Instrument of Student Governance is in effect for this course. Please read the Instrument which contains your rights and responsibilities and examples of academic dishonesty (e.g., plagiarism, cheating, giving or receiving unauthorized assistance or collaboration for group work).

Assignments for this course are to be completed individually - except the group project. It is your responsibility if you have any doubt to confirm whether or not collaboration is permitted.

You can learn more about the UNC Honor Code on the website of the Office of Student Conduct and in the Instrument of Student Governance. Please contact the instructor if you have any questions about the Honor Code or its application to your work in this class.

Be careful about plagiarism. Whenever you use the words or ideas of others, either as direct quotes or paraphrased text, they should be properly attributed through quotations and/or citations. APA citation format (and style guide) is required for assignments in this class. I strongly recommend you complete the Plagiarism tutorial created by a SILS student last year and examine a handout on plagiarism developed by the Writing Center. These provide an overview of plagiarism and suggestions for avoiding plagiarism.


Email is the most efficient way to communicate with the instructor outside of class for brief questions or to request an appointment. Normally, you should expect a response within 24 hours. I am available by appointment for office hours.

Changes to the schedule will be announced in class and in Sakai. Revisions will also be noted on the schedule and assignments pages.

In case of adverse weather conditions (e.g., hurricane, snow), the course may be held online or cancelled as appropriate. Official communications and instructions will be sent via e-mail. Please check your email before class on days with adverse weather.


During class sessions, you may need to use a laptop (or tablet) as part of your group activities. If this will be difficult for you, please let me know.

Please use your laptops or other electronic devices only to support your class participation. Please do not engage in email or social media.

Library and IT Resources

You will be using UNC Libraries, including the SILS library, as well as campus IT resources and SILS IT services during the course of the semester. Please remember that many of your fellow students also need to use the same equipment and materials.


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:

For more information about diversity at UNC and SILS, please see the SILS Statement of Diversity, the UNC Core Diversity Values, and UNC Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct.

Acts of discrimination, harassment, interpersonal (relationship) violence, sexual violence, sexual exploitation, stalking, and related retaliation are prohibited at UNC-Chapel Hill. If you have experienced these types of conduct, you are encouraged to report the incident and seek resources on campus or in the community. See the Safe at UNC website for more information or resources.


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill facilitates the implementation of reasonable accommodations, including resources and services, for students with disabilities, chronic medical conditions, a temporary disability or pregnancy complications resulting in difficulties with accessing learning opportunities. See the Accessibility Resources and Service Office website for more information.

Many other campus resources

There are many important and useful campus resources and services available to you as a UNC student. Please take some time to review the list of campus resources and services. Here is an incomplete list of resources or services (in no specific order):