School of Information - The University of Texas

INF 397C: Introduction to Research in Information Studies


Student Expectations


Students often come to this course with mixed expectations and experiences: some may be convinced that they cannot succeed in a course that includes any mathematical material, especially statistics, while other students feel no such anxiety. Mathematics phobia and statistics phobia, however, are fairly common and are often linked to negative expectations, both your own and others'. Leave those expectations and experiences behind -- you can and will succeed in this course for a number of reasons:

Like most students in INF 397C before you, you will probably find the statistical calculations much easier than you fear, while the conceptual, analytic skills you will be expected to develop and hone will demand much more of you. In order to produce a context in which you can succeed and develop a basic familiarity with statistical operations, you have a number of resources available to you this semester:

In addition to these resources, the in-class quiz and examination are designed to provide you with the opportunity to demonstrate what you know, not to torment you about what you do not know. The in-class quiz will take place about halfway through the semester, while the exam will occur during finals week. Both will emphasize critical thinking and analysis, not rote learning. Thus, like the previous examinations on reserve at PCL, they will consist of two major parts:

1. Calculations

2. Concepts.

You will be allowed to use your notes, textbooks, calculator, and other resources to work on the first part (the calculations); everything except another person. Feel free to ask about these and related topics at any time. Previous students, especially those with relatively little mathematical background, have found the appropriate parts of Rowntree's Statistics Without Tears (1981) useful.

It is important for you to remember that I cannot and will not teach you statistics; you will teach yourself, and, as members of the class, you will teach each other. You can do well in the class, especially if you meet my expectations discussed below and maximize your use of the study hints also noted below.


Students are expected to be involved, creative, and vigorous participants in class discussions and in the overall conduct of the class. In addition, students are expected to:

Academic or scholastic dishonesty, such as plagiarism, cheating, or academic fraud, will not be tolerated and will incur the most severe penalties, including failure for the course.

If there is any concern about behavior that may be academically dishonest, please consult the instructor. Students are also encouraged to refer to the UT General Information Bulletin, Appendix C, Sections 11-304 and 11-802 and the brochure Texas is the Best . . . HONESTLY! (1988) by the Cabinet of College Councils and the Office of the Dean of Students.



Students who succeed in this class ordinarily:



Review these standards both before and after writing; they are used to evaluate your work.

You will be expected to meet professional standards of maturity, clarity, grammar, spelling, and organization in your written work for this class, and, to that end, I offer the following remarks. Every writer is faced with the problem of not knowing what his or her audience knows about the topic at hand; therefore, effective communication depends upon maximizing clarity. As Wolcott reminds us in Writing Up Qualitative Research (1990, p. 47): "Address . . . the many who do not know, not the few who do." It is also important to remember that clarity of ideas, clarity of language, and clarity of syntax are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Good writing makes for good thinking and vice versa.

All written work for the class must be done on a word-processor and double-spaced, with 1" margins all the way around and in either 10 or 12 pt. font.

Certain writing assignments will demand the use of notes (either footnotes or endnotes) and references. It is particularly important in professional schools such as the School of Information that notes and references are impeccably done. Please use APA (American Psychological Association) standards. There are other standard bibliographic and note formats, for example, in engineering and law, but social scientists and a growing number of humanists use APA. Familiarity with standard formats is essential for understanding others' work and for preparing submissions to journals, funding agencies, professional conferences, and the like. You may also consult the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2001, 5th ed.) and (a useful if non-canonical source).

Do not use a general dictionary or encyclopedia for defining terms in graduate school or in professional writing. If you want to use a reference source to define a term, a better choice would be a specialized dictionary such as The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Philosophy or subject-specific encyclopedia, e.g., the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. The best alternative, however, is having an understanding of the literature related to the term sufficient to provide a definition in the context of that literature.

Use the spell checker in your word processing package to review your documents, but be aware that spell checking dictionaries: do not include most proper nouns, including personal and place names; omit most technical terms; include very few foreign words and phrases; and cannot identify the error in using homophones, e.g., writing "there" instead of "their," or in writing "the" instead of "them."

It is imperative that you proofread your work thoroughly and be precise in editing it. It is often helpful to have someone else read your writing, to eliminate errors and to increase clarity. Finally, each assignment should be handed in with a title page containing your full name, the date, the title of the assignment, and the class number (INF 397C). If you have any questions about these standards, I will be pleased to discuss them with you at any time.

Remember, every assignment must include a title page with

Since the production of professional-level written work is one of the aims of the class, I will read and edit your work as the editor of a professional journal or the moderator of a technical session at a professional conference would. The reminders below will help you prepare professional-level written work appropriate to any situation. Note the asterisked errors in #'s 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 20, and 25 (some have more than one error):

1. Staple all papers for this class in the upper left-hand corner. Do not use covers, binders, or other means of keeping the pages together.

2. Number all pages after the title page. Ordinarily, notes and references do NOT count against page limits.

3. Use formal, academic prose. Avoid colloquial language, *you know?* It is essential in graduate work and in professional communication to avoid failures in diction -- be serious and academic when called for, be informal and relaxed when called for, and be everything in between as necessary. For this course, avoid words and phrases such as "agenda," "problem with," "deal with," "handle," "window of," "goes into," "broken down into," "viable," and "option."

4. Avoid clichés. They are vague, *fail to "push the envelope," and do not provide "relevant input."*

5. Avoid computer technospeak like "input," "feedback," or "processing information" except when using such terms in specific technical ways; similarly avoid using "content" as a noun.

6. Do not use the term "relevant" except in its information retrieval sense. Ordinarily, it is a colloquial cliché, but it also has a strict technical meaning in information studies.

7. Do not use "quality" as an adjective; it is vague, cliché, and colloquial. Instead use "high-quality," "excellent," "superior," or whatever more formal phrase you deem appropriate.

8. Study the APA style convention for the proper use of ellipsis*. . . .*

9. Avoid using the terms "objective" and "subjective" in their evidentiary senses; these terms entail major philosophical, epistemological controversy. Avoid terms such as "facts," "factual," "proven," and related constructions for similar reasons.

10. Avoid contractions. *Don't* use them in formal writing.

11. Be circumspect in using the term "this," especially in the beginning of a sentence. *THIS* is often a problem because the referent is unclear. Pay strict attention to providing clear referents for all pronouns. Especially ensure that pronouns and their referents agree in number; e.g., "each person went to their home" is a poor construction because "each" is a singular form, as is the noun "person," while "their" is a plural form. Therefore, either the referent or the pronoun must change in number.

12. "If" ordinarily takes the subjunctive mood, e.g., "If he were [not "was"] only taller."

13. Put "only" in its appropriate place, near the word it modifies. For example, it is appropriate in spoken English to say that "he only goes to Antone's" when you mean that "the only place he frequents is Antone's." In written English, however, the sentence should read "he goes only to Antone's."

14. Do not confuse possessive, plural, or contracted forms, especially of pronouns. *Its* bad.

15. Do not confuse affect/effect, compliment/complement, or principle/principal. Readers will not *complement* your work or *it's* *principle* *affect* on them.

16. Avoid misplaced modifiers; e.g., it is inappropriate to write the following sentence: As someone interested in the history of Mesoamerica, it was important for me to attend the lecture. The sentence is inappropriate because the phrase "As someone interested in the history of Mesoamerica" is meant to modify the next immediate word, which should then, obviously, be both a person and the subject of the sentence. It should modify the word "I" by preceding it immediately. One good alternative for the sentence is: As someone interested in the history of Mesoamerica, I was especially eager to attend the lecture.

17. Avoid use of "valid," "parameter," "bias," "reliability," and "paradigm," except in limited technical ways. These are important research terms and should be used with precision.

18. Remember that the words "data," "media," "criteria," "strata," and "phenomena" are all PLURAL forms. They *TAKES* plural verbs. If you use any of these plural forms in a singular construction, e.g., "the data is," you will make the instructor very unhappy :-(.

19. "Number," "many," and "fewer" are used with plural nouns (a number of horses, many horses, and fewer horses). "Amount," "much," and "less" are used with singular nouns (an amount of hydrogen, much hydrogen, and less hydrogen). Another useful way to make this distinction is to recall that "many" is used for countable nouns, while "much" is used for uncountable nouns.

20. *The passive voice should generally not be used.*

21. "Between" is used with two alternatives, while "among" is used with three or more.

22. Generally avoid the use of honorifics such as Mister, Doctor, Ms., and so on when referring to persons in your writing, especially when citing their written work. Use last names and dates as appropriate in APA

23. There is no generally accepted standard for citing electronic resources. If you cite them, give an indication, as specifically as possible, of:

- responsibility (who?)
- title (what?)
- date of creation (when?)
- date viewed (when?)
- place to find the source (where? how?).

See the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2001, 5th ed., pp. 213-214, 231, and 268-281) for a discussion of citing electronic material and useful examples. Also see Web Extension to American Psychological Association Style (WEAPAS) at

24. "Cite" is a verb, "citation" is a noun; similarly, "quote" is a verb, "quotation" is a noun.


26. Use double quotation marks ("abc."), not single quotation marks ('xyz.'), as a matter of course. Single quotation marks are to be used to indicate quotations within quotations.

27. Provide a specific page number for all direct quotations. If the quotation is from a Web page or other digital source, provide at least the paragraph number and/or other directional cues, e.g., "(Davis, 1993, section II, 4)."

28. In ordinary American English, as ? because.

29. Use "about" instead of the tortured locution "as to."

30. In much of social science and humanistic study, the term "issue" is used in a technical way to identify sources of public controversy or dissensus. Please use the term to refer to topics about which there is substantial public disagreement, NOT synonymously with general terms such as "area," "topic," or the like.

31. "Impact" is a noun.

32. Please do not start a sentence or any independent clause with "however."

33. Do not use the term "subjects" to describe research participants. "Respondents," "participants," and "informants" are preferred terms.

34. Do not use notes unless absolutely necessary, but, if you must use them, use endnotes not footnotes.



Symbol Meaning
# number OR insert a space; context will help you decipher its meaning
AWK awkward; and usually compromises clarity as well
block make into a block quotation without external quotation marks; do so with quotations = 4 lines
caps capitalize
COLLOQ colloquial and to be avoided
dB database
FRAG sentence fragment; often that means that the verb and/or subject of the sentence is missing
j journal
lc make into lower case
lib'ship librarianship
org, org'l organization, organizational
PL plural
Q question
REF? what is the referent of this pronoun? to what or whom does it refer?
RQ research question
sp spelling
SING singular
w/ with
w.c.? word choice?



The grading system for this class includes the following grades:

A+ Extraordinarily high achievement
A Superior
A- Excellent
B+ Good
B Satisfactory
B- Barely satisfactory
C+ Unsatisfactory
C Unsatisfactory
C- Unsatisfactory
D Unacceptable
F Unacceptable and failing.

See the memorandum from former Dean Brooke Sheldon dated August 13, 1991, and the notice in the School of Information student orientation packets for explanations of this system. Students should consult the iSchool Web site ( and the Graduate School Catalogue (e.g., and for more on standards of work. The University of Texas does not yet use the +/- grading system that we do at the iSchool; UT accepts only full letter grades. Therefore, for example, a B- and B+ final grade at the iSchool both translate to a final grade of B at the University level.

A grade of B signals acceptable, satisfactory performance in graduate school. In this class, the grade of A is reserved for students who demonstrate not only a command of the concepts and techniques discussed but also an ability to synthesize and integrate them in a professional manner and communicate them effectively.

The grade of incomplete (X) is reserved for students in extraordinary circumstances and must be negotiated with the instructor before the end of the semester. See the former Dean's memorandum of August 13, 1991, available from the main iSchool office.

I use points to evaluate assignments, not letter grades. Points on any assignment are determined using an arithmetic not a proportional algorithm. For example, 14/20 points on an assignment does NOT translate to 70% of the credit, or a D. Instead 14/20 points is very roughly equivalent to a B. If any student's semester point total > 90 (is equal to or greater than 90), then s/he will have earned an A of some kind. If the semester point total > 80, then s/he will have earned at least a B of some kind. Whether these are A+, A, A-, B+, B, or B- depends upon the comparison of point totals for all students. For example, if a student earns 90 points and the highest point total in the class is 98, the student would earn an A-. If, on the other hand, a student earns 90 points and the highest point total in the class is 91, then the student would earn an A. This system will be further explained throughout the semester.

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