INF 397C - Understanding Research
Survey of the goals, methods, processes, and products of systematic inquiry. Designed to prepare students to critically evaluate information studies research. Three lecture hours a week for one semester.
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
"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
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.