Graduate School of Library and Information Science - The University of Texas




Additional information about each assignment will be provided by the instructor. Written assignments are to be word-processed and double-spaced in 10- or 12-point font, with 1" margins. Assignments are due in class unless otherwise indicated. GRP indicates a group assignment.

Assignment Date Due Percent of Grade
Preparation and participation ----- 10%
Research problem sets    

U.S. federal information

JUN 17, TUE 25%

Spatially-referenced and statistical information

JUN 24, TUE 10%

Texas, state, and international information

JUL 1, TUE 10%
U.S. federal or state agency information initiative report (5 pp.) GRP    

Identification of research team, agency,and information initiative (1 p.)<

JUN 12, THU -----

Outline or full draft of report

JUN 26, THU -----

Report on specific federal or state agency’s information service (5 pp.)

JUL 8, TUE 25%
Government information issue paper    

Choice of topic

JUL 3, THU -----

Full paper (5 pp.)

JUL 11, FRI 20%

All assignments must be handed in on time, and the instructor reserves the right to issue a course grade of F if any assignment is not completed. Late assignments will not be accepted unless three criteria are met:

  1. At least 24 hours before the date due, the instructor gives explicit permission to the student to hand the assignment in late.
  2. At the same time, a specific date and time are agreed upon for the late submission.
  3. The assignment is then submitted on or before the agreed-upon date and time.

The first criterion can be met only in the most serious of health, family, or personal situations.



Since this course takes place in the (abbreviated) summer session, it is imperative to be assiduous in keeping up with the readings and with the written assignments. It is very difficult to cover all the important topics related to government information in any one semester, much less in the five weeks available to us this first summer session. All that said, the course and assignments are structured to help you develop significant expertise with government information sources, services, and policies. You should be confident that you will emerge with considerable familiarity with important government information sources, programs, actors, and the like. Naturally, your success in this course, as with all others, depends upon your own performance.

Please consult the sections in this syllabus on (1) Analysis in Reading, Writing, and Presenting and (2) Standards for Written Work before and after doing the assignments.

Class preparation and participation

Besides being an active and engaged member of the class, each student must complete two tasks related to the preparation and participation grade:

  1. Subscribe to GOVDOC-L and monitor it throughout our summer session. The user’s guide is at, while you can subscribe at -- please do so immediately if you are not already subscribed. Please read the messages during the first summer session, but also explore the archives ( and post to this list as your interests and ambitions dictate.
  2. Act as an informal discussion moderator for any one of the last four classes, July 1, 2, 3, and 8, when we will discuss selected information policy issues. The instructor will provide in-class introduction to the topic(s) of the day and will contextualize the issues of interest, while the student moderators will be expected to have read the material for the day closely and come prepared to facilitate an informal discussion of the topics, issues, and readings. Notify me of your choice as soon as possible.

Research problem sets – due June 17, June 24, and July 1 (25, 10, and 10%)

There will be three reference problem sets due at various times of the semester. Each student will use the handouts as the answer sheets, using the suggested sources for determining the answers. It is imperative to document your answers fully and to use the particular sources and formats as indicated in the problem instructions. The sets cover three broad topics:

  • U.S. federal information, due Tuesday June 17 (25%)
  • Spatially-referenced and statistical information, due Tuesday June 24 (10)
  • Texas, state, and international information, due Tuesday July 1 (10).

The instructor will provide each problem set in hard copy or as a Word email attachment approximately one week before it is due.

There are many other very valuable sources of such questions, many with answers provided, including:

  • The CD-ROM in the text (Hernon et al., 2002); these exercises, with answers, come largely from Joe Morehead’s teaching materials.
  • Exercises at the end of each chapter in Robinson (1999), with solutions gathered together at the end of the volume.
  • Many online syllabi for courses similar to this one from universities across the country, e.g., at the University of Arizona, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Simmons College, Syracuse University, Florida State University, the University of North Texas, the University of Albany (SUNY), the University of Illinois, and Indiana University, have exercises and (often) solutions.

    You may find all of these sources valuable to you, well beyond this semester’s work. The more initiative you take in this regard, the more expert you will become.

Report on agency’s information initiative – due June 12, June 26, and July 8 (25%)

Students will organize themselves into groups of three or four in order to identify and evaluate one major information creation, organization, and dissemination initiative of a U.S. federal, state, or local government agency. Of special interest are how the initiative contributes to the achievement of the agency’s mission, what audience(s) the initiative is meant to reach, and how the initiative helps us think further about concerns and issues we have considered in the course.

The report will focus on one major information program or product in any format and for any audience(s). Examples of appropriate sources for this assignment are particular print publications, databases, Web sites (perhaps three to five screens “deep”), and information education initiatives. This information activity should not be one that we have spent much time discussing in class.

By Thursday June 12, the students will notify the instructor of the members of the team and of the agency information product or service the team will examine. The team will then submit an outline or full draft of their report no later than Thursday June 26. The final report is due on Tuesday July 8.

Issue paper – due Friday July 11, 2003 (20%)

Each individual student will have the opportunity to select a topic from the list below and write a focused, analytic paper about the issue and its importance. No more than two students will be able to choose any one issue, and the topics will be assigned on a first come/first served basis.

Be sure to discuss the salient elements of the issue at hand, to contextualize it in the context of our work this semester, and to use our readings and discussions this semester to inform your analysis. These issues are quite complex, and there are many reasonable ways to consider them – be sure to think about several alternative approaches but focus on one.

  • Should all government information be free for all users? Why or why not?
  • Privacy of information held by government
  • Archiving public records, especially information that exists in multiple formats or in digital formats only
  • Access to public records, especially through Freedom of Information and state open records analogues
  • The evolution of the federal depository library program (FDLP)
  • Should the federal government or federal contractors be able to copyright federal government information? Why or why not?
  • George W. Bush’s Executive Order (EO) 13233 on presidential records
  • Other issues negotiated between the student and the instructor.

Each student will produce an essay 5 double-spaced pages long. Please be sure that the paper is analytic, reflective, holistic, and specifically grounded in all of the sources you use. Also be sure to review two parts of the syllabus: (1) Analysis in reading, writing, and presenting and (2) Suggestions for writing policy analysis. Recall that you will not be able to perform a fully realized policy analysis, given your time and space constraints, but I expect that you will be able to make an informed and informing argument, well beyond the simplistic “well, I think . . .” approach. Show how the course has improved your ability to make policy arguments.