Fall 2017

INF 397C Understanding Research

Unique ID: 28450


Survey of the goals, methods, processes, and products of systematic inquiry. Designed to prepare students to critically evaluate information studies research.


Every day you may hear, or read, many claims, such as: "This toothpaste will whiten your teeth faster." "Our study has shown that people are not using libraries due to the availability of online information." "Our results indicate that 37% of library users want access to free Wi-Fi." "Austin traffic worsened by 33% in the last year" "This web site is better than the other." "Taking this course will help you be a better information scientist." Unprepared information professionals – indeed, unprepared citizens! – are forced to consider the huge inflow of claims they hear every day, and either accept or reject them based on faith. Prepared professionals and citizens can, instead, consider the methods used and analyze the information on which the claims are made, and evaluate for themselves the likely goodness of the claims. This course aims to help you evaluate and understand such claims by helping you to understand quantitative and qualitative research methods, as well as a number of other approaches. Being able to critically examine research for quality and applicability and to discuss it intelligibly is an important competency of an information professional. Understanding the underpinnings of research is part of being a critical consumer of information. You may also find the need to conduct studies in your practice as a professional, whether you are an information architect, an archivist, a librarian, a UX specialist, or any other information professional. In this course, we will integrate the exploration of criteria-based research evaluation with hands-on experience. The course is designed to help you develop skills and awareness for understanding research. The course will arm you with an appreciation for various ways to conduct research. Assignments will provide you with a chance to demonstrate that you understand the basics of these various approaches to research. We will engage in some lecture, some discussion, and some hands-on in-class exercises. I expect you to come out from this course being able to evaluate whether a piece of research you read about was appropriately designed and well conducted. Note that the fundamental goal of this course is not to empower you to conduct your own research, but rather to well prepare you to be critical consumers of research in your academic and professional careers. But we will practice some research methods too. https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/sites/default/files/images/webform/Understanding_Research_Syllabus_Spring2017_ALL_0.pdf


Graduate standing.