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

INLS 881/882, Research Issues and Questions I & II
Fall 2016 & Spring 2017


Honor Code / Seminar participation / Seminal and inspirational works/events / Looking outward / Looking inward

Syllabus / Schedule / Sakai class site

The assignments during the two semesters of this seminar aim to foster your growth as a scholar and researcher in information and library science; specifically, they are intended to increase your knowledge of the major facets of our field and position your research interests in relation to those facets. Each of the two semesters is structured in a similar way; those assignments due during a particular semester will be evaluated in order to assign the grade for that semester.

All written assignments (and any intermediate milestone documents) should be turned in via the Drop Box tool in Sakai. My comments on them will be returned to the same Drop Box. No printed documents are expected.

Honor Code

The Honor Code, which prohibits giving or receiving unauthorized aid in the completion of assignments, is in effect in this class.

During class sessions, we will be discussing and critiquing your ongoing work in the class. Participation in such discussions is not considered a violation of the Honor Code, and you are encouraged to provide useful feedback to your colleagues in this setting or in similar discussions outside of class or on the class discussion forum. Receipt of particularly important feedback or inspiration should be acknowledged or cited in your written work.

Seminar participation and contributions (15%)

As a doctoral student, it is important that you be an active participant in our community. Conversations over lunch, comments on a paper, questions after a talk, interesting postings to one of the SILS listervs/blogs, are all ways of contributing to the community.

You are expected to complete all reading assignments prior to the class in which they will be discussed. I will be expecting you to be an active participant in class, remembering that the quality of your comments and questions is as important as the quantity.

Other contributions to the seminar are also important, such as sharing interesting articles you have read, things you have learned, or questions to which you do not know the answer. As a researcher, you are expected to express opinions, as well as the reasons and evidence for them.

This assignment will account for 15% of your grade for the seminar.

Sharing what you're reading/hearing (5%)

As we read and discuss important topics in information and library science this year, we will have the difficult task of exploring each area's underlying theories, the methods used, and current work in the area. We'll increase our collective exposure to these research areas through your individual contributions, based on the reading you're doing for this seminar, your other classes, or on your own. Each semester, each student will be expected to select, read, and report on two items they've read; across the two semesters, you should plan to report on: one seminal work, one inspirational work or event, and two empirical papers using particularly-interesting methods. These will not be formal presentations; they will be informal sharing in the context of a class discussion.

A seminal work

A seminal work is one that initiates a new area of research - it might propose a different way of understanding some phenomenon, it might be a ground-breaking empirical study. In all cases, it was work that later scholars built upon fruitfully. For the purposes of this assignment, any article that was published prior to 1995, that has been cited more than 50 times, and that you believe was important to the development of the field is eligible.

Read a seminal article of your choosing. Are there issues or questions from the literature we discussed that built on this work or were informed by it? In what way is this article still important for current research?

Be prepared to give a brief, informal summary of the selected article and your thoughts and ideas about it (5 minutes, no PowerPoint). You should report on the seminal work during the section of the course to which it is pertinent. Send the article citation to the class list before the class session in which you will present it, as well as posting the full text in the Resources section of our Sakai site.

An inspirational work/event

An inspirational article or event may help you develop or understand a research question, make you think about something you thought you understood in a new way, serve as the basis for a line of research, model a particular research method, drive you to demonstrate that the author/speaker is wrong, or be an example of excellent research.

Select your inspirational work or event (it could be an article, a book chapter, a web site, a lecture, a video, or a conference presentation). As soon as possible after you've identified the inspirational work or event, you will share it with us in class.

Please notify me when you're ready to tell us about this work or event -- why you find this work or event inspirational, and how it is helping you or will help you with your work. (Note that I am not asking you to summarize it.) Send the work's citation or a link to the event's website to the class list before the class session in which you will present it, as well as posting the full text (if applicable) in the Resources section of our Sakai site.

Studies using interesting research methods (2)

One of the goals of this course is to become better acquainted with the research methods used in information and library science. As you read empirical articles, pay attention to the methods they used. The methods may be of interest because they are novel, but they also may be of interest because they did such a good job of capturing or analyzing the data needed to address the research question under investigation.

Select two articles that used particular interesting research methods. In class, be prepared to describe the method(s) used by each and why you found them to be of interest for your own work.

Please notify me when you're ready to tell us about each of these two articles; I'm not expecting that you'll report on both on the same day (or even in the same semester), but that is possible. Send the articles' citations to the class list before the class session in which you will present each, as well as posting the full texts in the Resources section of our Sakai site.

Evaluation criteria

This assignment will be evaluated in terms of the selection of the works/event (i.e., it was important for the field and relevant to the topic at hand), the clarity of your summarization and analysis, and the originality of your ideas about it. This assignment (the two pieces, combined, each semester) will account for 5% of your grade.

Looking outward: Understanding the field in relation to your own research interests (60%)

Throughout the course, we will examine current research questions (including current studies, relevant theories, and applicable methods) in six areas:

You will be asked to conduct an analytical literature review in each of these areas (three in the fall and three in the spring), with a focus on how your own research interests are related to the area.

In each review, you should focus on the literature in a particular area that connects with your own research interests. For example, you may be interested in how and why people provide answers to questions on a social Q&A site. For your literature review in the area of curation, archiving, and preservation, you may want to focus on issues related to the archiving and preservation of content posted to social media sites. For your literature review in the area of describing and organizing information, you may want to focus on issues related to different approaches to describing individual posts so that they can later be organized and/or retrieved (e.g., tagging, formal vocabularies, natural language processing approaches, etc.). You can use the assignment worksheet available in our Sakai resources, to track the evolution of your own research interests, as well as the possible connections between them and the six areas to be discussed in class.


I've established some intermediate milestones to help you keep moving, to keep me informed of your progress, and to help initiate conversations between us if there is any need. Each of these milestones applies to each of the six literature reviews.

Schedule of due dates

Evaluation criteria

Each review should be approximately 8-12 pages (single-spaced). While the number of citations included in each will vary, I would expect each review to incorporate 20-some references. (You'll likely read/examine more than 50 works for each review, in preparation for writing it.)

The criteria used to evaluate each of your analytical reviews will be similar to the criteria routinely applied to scholarly literature reviews. These include the significance of the question/problem to the field, the adequacy of the citations to previous work, the validity and logic of your analysis of that literature, the originality of your perspective on past work and its relationship to your own interests, and the organization, clarity, and style of your presentation. The three literature reviews completed each semester will count for 60% of the grade for the semester.

Looking inward: Developing your own research interests in relation to specific aspects of the field (20%)

In each of the reviews just described, you are considering a particular aspect of the field of information and library science, and how your research interests are positioned in relation to that aspect of the field. In other words, you're taking the broad view and positioning your interests within it. In this assignment, you'll focus on your own research interests and try to specify them more clearly, still keeping in mind their position within the field. In other words, you'll take the specific view based on your own interests, and discuss them in relation to what you've learned about the broader field.

Let's consider an example. Let's assume that you are interested in how and why people provide answers to questions on a social Q&A site. As you considered this research area in the context of information organization, you learned that people are quite subjective in their tagging of the answers they provide. As you considered it in relation to curation and preservation, you learned that people like to be able to look back on the question-answers that they've produced over time, but don't have strong skills in organizing or describing those answers. When you considered this area in relation to information services and the institutions that provide them, you learned that almost all Q&A sites are supported by for-profit corporations and are primarily oriented toward motivating people to increase their participation, regardless of the quality of the answers being provided. As you consider the various things that you've learned about these three areas in the first semester, your own interests will likely evolve. One possibility is that you decide you want to focus your dissertation research on the impact of using "expert" moderators as evaluators of question-answers; you want to find out the impact of this practice on the number of answers provided and on the quality of those answers.

For this assignment, you will write an analytical literature review focused very specifically on your own research interests. In addition, you will include a brief prospectus for a study that you'd like to conduct as a preliminary look at your research area. The introduction and literature review of the paper should provide a rationale for conducting the study; the prospectus should provide a brief explanation of how the study will be carried out.

Milestones and due dates

Your work on this assignment will extend throughout each semester. Therefore, you will have several milestones as you progress toward completion of it. They are:

The final product (introduction, literature review, and study prospectus) will be due during the final exam period each semester.

Evaluation criteria

The final paper should be approximately 10-12 pages, single-spaced, plus references; the prospectus portion should be approximately 1-2 pages of the 12.

The criteria used to evaluate your final products will be similar to the criteria routinely applied to research proposals. These include the significance of the question/problem to the field, the adequacy of the citations to previous work, the feasibility, validity and logic of your plans for a study, and the organization, clarity, and style of your writing. This final product will account for 20% of your grade each semester.

Syllabus / Schedule / Sakai class site

Creative Commons License The INLS 881-882 website, UNC-CH, 2016, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License. Address all comments and questions to Barbara M. Wildemuth at This page was last modified on August 22, 2016, by Barbara M. Wildemuth.