LIS 382L.18: Online Information Resources-Palmquist

University of Texas at Austin
LIS 397.1: Intro to Research Methods in LIS
Dr. Ruth A. Palmquist
Fall 1999
Unique No. 44570
SZB 468 1:00-4:00 p.m. Wednesdays

Dr. Ruth A. Palmquist

Office: 562J SZB
Phone: 471-3839

Office Hours:
After class Wednesdays and Thursdays 1:30-3:00 p.m.,
and always by request at other times Phone: office 471-3839
Teaching Assistant:
Jungwha Hong


This course is designed to provide a general introduction to the concerns and skills of both the producer and the consumer of research in the field of library and information science. The main emphasis in the course will be quantitative research techniques, however there will be an opportunity to examine qualitative approaches as well. The course content is designed for students who have had no prior experience with research or statistics. Students will be expected to keep up with outside computational and reading assignments. These will eventually entail the use of a computerized statistical package. Coverage of statistical methods will stress descriptive and exploratory techniques, initially, followed by inferential statistics. The course content will also provide the opportunity to evaluate published research within library and information science. Finally, students will create the introduction to a potential research effort (problem statement) as a demonstration of their understanding.

* Grantsmanship Resources (How to write proposals that get funded)

** Problem Statement (Power Point)

Course Requirements
Grading Guidelines
Answer: Review sheet for midterm
Group Report on a Methodology
Tasks to help you build the Problem Statement


  1. To demonstrate an understanding the fundamental nature of the scientific method as an approach to problem solving and evaluation through creation of a research proposal (often referred to as a problem statement).
  2. To establish guidelines by which to judge the "goodness" of a research effort as presented in published scholarly literature.
  3. To demonstrate competence in analyzing data through the use of computational formulae and a computerized statistical package (SPSS, Excel or other of student's choice).
  4. To examine closely several basic research methodologies frequently used in the field of LIS research and apply one to the evolution of a research proposal (or problem statement).

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  • Methodology, Oral Report 10%
  • Midterm (open book & open notes) 15%
  • Final Exam (open book & open notes) 25%
  • Statistical assignments (2) 30%
  • Problem Statement (5-8 pp.) 20%

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Attendance and discussion are essential, as is a thorough effort to keep current with all assigned readings. The amount of reading required is not great, but there will be occasions to go beyond the textbook occasionally and practice your understanding with calculation efforts for those who wish to do well. Lecture content may not always be parallel to the readings, but they should feel complementary in developing the understandings and vocabulary of research. A good deal of the semester will be devoted to statistics, but always with a strong understanding of the context, the reasons why statistics are useful. It is my personal belief that you are better able to read a research article once you have had the experience of doing some statistical work yourself. The point of the course is not to create statisticians, so you will be introduced to only a modest (but most useful) number of statistical measurements. The texts chosen are also good for their use of humor and illustration, providing a user-friendly approach to the world of number crunching. The exams will be open notes and open book, so it is beneficial to be fairly methodical in your note taking. Important concepts, definitions and calculations will always be covered by the instructor, so good attendance and attention are your best study aids.

It is a good idea to purchase an inexpensive calculator––one that is capable of the four arithmetic functions and of calculating the square root. That purchase should not cost more than $5 or so. A backup calculator will be provided by the instructor during exams. At present, SPSS for Windows 8.0 is the statistical package available in the IP Lab to calculate statistics for large data sets. The data sets you need will be provided along with in class tutorials on using the software.

All written work done by the student outside of class will be expected to be word–processed. All calculations submitted for grading can be done in pencil. The back pages of the syllabus provide some guidelines for writing the problem statement required. Also enclosed in the syllabus are guidelines for the research method group presentation. We will discuss both thoroughly before either come due.


The grading system for GSLIS has been explained in your GSLIS Announcement. The University of Texas does not use the +/- grading system that we do here at GSLIS; UT accepts only full letter grades. Therefore, for example, final grades of B- and B+ at GSLIS will both translate to a final grade of B at the University level. You should expect a grade of B for acceptable masters' level work; only an outstanding performance will be given a grade of A. Each assignment will be given a letter grade together with an indication of the criteria on which the grade is based. Returned work will be given + and - indicators. In calculating the final grade, these letter grades will be assigned a numeric index which will then be weighted according to the weight given the assignment. For those who receive a final course average falling between, say, an A and a B, class participation and interaction with the instructor will be used to determine push a mid-level average to the higher final grade assigned.

The exams will be graded on a 100 point scale, and generally 90 and above will be necessary to obtain an A. Again, grading criteria for other assigned work should be clearly indicated. Should you have a question about a grade you have received, please feel free to see the instructor. Because of the large class size, it is imperative that assignments be handed in on time, at the beginning of class on the date due. Please inform the instructor 24 hours in advance about work that will be late. Instructor reserves the right to decrease one-third on letter grades for each day an assignment is late.

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Katzer, Cook and Crouch. Evaluating Information: A Guide for Users of Social Science Research. 4th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1998.

Williams, Frederick. Reasoning with Statistics: How to Read Quantitative Research. 4th edition. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1992.

Recommended for the "mathphobic", but not required

Brown, Amos and Mink. Statistical Concepts: A Basic Program. 4th ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1997.

Reserve Readings (at PCL):

Busha and Harter. Research Methods in Librarianship: Techniques and Interpretations. New York: Academic Press, 1980.

Hartwig and Dearing. Exploratory Data Analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1979, pp. 9-31.

Milgram, Stanley. "A Behavioral Study of Obedience," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology. 67(4) 1963, pp. 371-378.


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Tentative Course Calendar



Assignments / Due

Aug 25

Introduction to the Course and the Scientific Method The "sherbet dish" model of research (a Palmquist derivative) Common Terminology and Symbols used in Research Methods


Katzer, Chaps. 1-5, scan 16-18 (over next several classes)

Sep 1

Evaluating Published Research: Look What a Little Common Sense Can Do! Looking at the Shape of Data: Getting Started with Descriptive Statistics


Williams, Chaps. 1-3 Katzer, Chaps. 6, 7, 8 & 9.


Discussion Case Study, CARTRANS, Inc.

Sep 8

More work with descriptive statistics Error: Bias and Noise Levels of Measurement


Katzer, Chapter 10 and 14 Williams, Chap. 4 Busha & Harter, Chap. 8 & 9

Sep 15

Reliability and Validity in Research Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research, Philosophical differences Choosing Representative Samples

READ: Hartwig & Dearing (on reserve at PCL), pp. 7-33

Sep 22

Lottery for choosing a methodology: 1) survey research, 2) content analysis, 3) historical, 4) experimental research, 5) case study, 6) bibliometrics, and 7) qualitative research. Exploratory Data Analysis Looking for Patterns in Bi-variate Data - Pearson r

READ: Busha & Harter, Chap. 1, 2, 3, 4 & 6 (for supporting information on various methodologies, concentrate on the methodology for your group report. Check out the Web page on methodologies available from the main course page. ) Guidelines for the oral report are given in the back of this syllabus.

READ: Milgram article.

READ: Midterm Review Sheet (ungraded).

Sep 29

Ethical Issues in Doing Research Review for Midterm.


Oct 6

Midterm (should take approx. 1-2 hours)


Oct 13

Oral Presentations of research articles to illustrate various research methods See guidelines at the back of this syllabus.

* Get Adobe Reader plug-in software if your PC doesn't have it. After clicking the Article, input password: "hong"


Bibliometrics : Article

1. Sha Towers 2. Sean Sutcliffe 3. Mary Goolsby 4. Bill Hardesty

Content Analysis :

Article, Report

1. Sally Bernier 2. Nel Baierl 3. Vanessa Kam 4. Chris Tovell 5. Eric Hahn

Experimental (true and/or quasi) : Article

1. Lynn Resler 2. Ia Wood 3. Jeanel Walker 4. Kathy Harden 5. Bridget Navoda 6. Allen Williams

Oct 20

More Oral Presentations


Case study: Article

1.Jeremy Bolom 2. Susan Hoyt 3. Jill Duffy 4. Kim Vassiliadis 5. Barret Havens 6. Rebecca Roberts 7. Laura Gottesman

Survey Research : Article

1. Sandra Cannon 2. Mary McKay 3. Rod Pollock 4. Mardene Carr 5. Peng Zhang 6. Amy Hatch 7. Jen Rie

Historical Method: Article

1. Dick Dickerson 2. Adam Brodkin 3. Teresa Diaz 4. Martha Dollar 5. Karen Sigler 6. Jason Bontrager 7. David Crabbe 8. Will Porter

Qualitative/ Indepth Interviews or Participant Observation : Article

1. Lisa A. Olsen 2. Valeria Werner 3. Christie Robbins 4. Joe Hernandez

Oct 27

Normal Distribution (Handout provided-not graded, but helps with final) Sampling Distribution of a Statistic (in our class, a mean) Demo of SPSS (in class)


Read: Williams, Chap. 5

Handout: Assignment 1 (Mr. Bigg)

SPSS file(.SAV) , ASCII file(.TXT) for Excel

Excel Manual

Nov 3

Inferential Statistics: Hypothesis Testing with the t-distribution: a test that compares the means of two distributions (variables)

Read: : Katzer, Chap. 12-13 Williams, Chap. 6 and 7

Nov 10

Chi square: A test which compares the shape of two distributions (variables) Survey Data Analysis using a statistical package

Read: Williams, pp. 117-121

Handout: : Assignment 2 (SURVEY DATA)

SPSS file(.SAV)

Excel file(.XLS)

Nov 17

Chi-square, continued

Due: Assignment 1 (Mr. BIGG)

Nov 24

Research and Project Proposal Writing

Due: Assignment 2 (SURVEY DATA)

Dec 1

Last Class, Review for Final Exam

Due: Problem Statement

Final Exam to be announced: Time & Place

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Class (Fall '99): List of Students


Dr. Ruth A. Palmquist:


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You have been assigned to a group which will have the responsibility of describing a research article which reports on a research effort following a particular type of research methodology. The purpose of this activity is to acquaint you (and the rest of the class) with a particular methodology and to see how reports of research fit (or do not fit) the "sherbet model of research." The effort is not graded, but I expect your participation and attention regardless. Please see me if you or the group have problems with the presentation.

Here is a general outline for your effort:

1. Select an article in which your particular methodology is used. Use Busha and Harter for guidance, but it may take some good old-fashioned hunting to find the method you have been assigned. Feel free to get suggestions from the instructor, but provide a copy as soon as possible so that your choice can be placed in the IP Lab for the rest of the class to read before your group presentation.

2. Use Busha and Harter (on reserve) and Web pages to read the explanation of your particular methodology. Again, feel free to look at other sources if you find Busha and Harter to be unclear or too abbreviated. Ask the instructor for guidance to materials which will outline the dos and don'ts of various methodologies.

3. For the presentation to the class:

a. Briefly describe the methodology you are illustrating with the article you have chosen. This should be a brief rehearsal of how the method is meant to be used, not necessarily how it was used in your article. This could be done by one of the group.

b. Next, provide some explanation of the problem statement or rationale for the research effort in your article. What were the goals, objectives, or aims of the researchers. What question(s) were they trying to answer?

c. How was the methodology applied to the problem or question? Did the researchers seem to faithfully follow the "how to" aspects of the method? Were there problems with the method that might cause the data to be biased, for example?

(1) If the method was historical, for example, how did the research article fit with the description you found in Harter and Busha about how historical research should be done? How were the primary documents (data) selected?

(2) If the method was experimental, what kind of randomization occurred. What size was the sample and how did the researcher exert a maximum level of control to assure that only the examined effect could have caused the result?

(3) If the method was a case study, does the description of the types of data selected seem diverse enough to have provided some illuminating patterns in the event?

(4) If the method was a survey, describe some of the questions asked of the subjects. Do the questions asked seem to be an effective way of getting at the purpose for which the study was designed.

(5) If the method was qualitative, it probably won't fit the "sherbet model" well at all. Instead provide a description of what was done. Did the research use one of the interviewing techniques discussed, either in-depth or participant/observer?

(6) If the method was content analysis, into what categories were the researchers coding the content? Did they get others (outsiders) to double check the accuracy of the coding scheme (this is called an inter-coder reliability check)?

d. What were the findings? Briefly describe the outcome of the research effort. It might be helpful to the class to provide a handout or some visual to illustrate a summary of the data analysis. Feel free to discuss only those statistical items with which you are comfortable. If you were a practitioner reading this article, would the results be clear to you?

e. What does the author think the significance of the results might be? Do you agree? Does the author mention any flaws that might need attention before someone else tries to replicate this research effort? (Some do, but others feel that if they are too honest then the effort will not be published!)

f. How might this article be useful to someone in practice?

g. Any summarizing comments? Did the "sherbet dish" help you to sort out the parts of the article?

Assign different members of your group to the various questions, perhaps. We will have approximately 20 minutes per group, so watch your time. At any national conference, 15-20 minutes is the usual allotment of time for presenting a research paper. If you wish to be more entertaining and innovative than described above, feel free to do so. Let me know if you need assistance with overheads or visuals.

Essentially, the aim is to illustrate a method to the class and provide them with a good understanding of the way that type of method is or should be conducted. If the parts of the "sherbet dish" model are present, that may help students understand the structure of a research article. Some journals are more rigorous in requiring authors to cover the basic parts of a research report using standard headings. Other journals leave the structure entirely up to the author.

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Toward the end of the semester, you will be asked to write a small problem statement for a research effort you have identified through reading published research You will not be asked to carry out any actual data collection, but to instead think through the arguments that need to be made about why and how the research should be carried out. The problem statement is usually the first chapter of a dissertation or the heart of a funding proposal to some agency. The point of the problem statement is to outline the problem to be address and suggest a method by which the problem could be solved (or at least better, more fully understood). The following general questions are posed to help you begin to put together your problem statement; not all questions are appropriate to your problem. These questions have been derived from various guides for writing research proposals are are given here only to suggest a structure for your 5-8 page effort. (Please double space your effort and use type font size 11 or 12 pt.)

Tentative Title: ___________________________________________________


1. Can you think of a dramatic illustration or quote that can set the tone or catch the readers interest for your study? What first awakened your interest?

2. Put yourself in the position of a reader of your problem statement. Would you want to continue reading after the Introduction? Can you place a general question at the end of the Introduction to intrigue or capture reader?

The Problem Statement - The Heart of a Study

3. Is there something societally wrong, theoretically unclear or in dispute, professionally disturbing, or historically worth studying? Is there a program that needs evaluation and assessment? Try to develop a question that your study would attempt to answer. Then preface that question with enough of an explanation of the problem so that others will understand the question when you finally give it.

4. Discuss your initial statement with a classmate or with the instructor. Refine your statement so that any reader can restate accurately what your research question or topic area is.

Does Your Question Pass the So What Test?

5. Have others worked on this problem? Are there other efforts you can cite? If not, are there others who have said the question (problem) is important to our field? Try to find at least 2-3 reasons (articles, persons) that indicate why the problem you have chosen is important and valid. To you? To the profession? To society?

6. Can you specify at least two concrete examples of the problem.

7. To what published work, statistics, trends or theoretical controversy does your study relate?

8. Does your study have as a goal to change something? To understand something? To interpret an event or situation? State your goal completely, remembering that the goal is some form of investigative activity.

9. Now, restate the goal of your study more succinctly and clearly. Have a classmate or the instructor read it and then see if they can restate your purpose or goal clearly after reading your statement.

10. If your goal is clear, restate it beginning with the phrase "The purpose of this study is ... ".

Propose a Possible Methodology

11. Revisit the methods we covered earlier in the semester. Which of them could you conceivably use and describe the possible strengths and weaknesses. If there is no clear best choice, consider more than one possibility, but don't try to be exhaustive. One who lists the most methods is not necessarily the winner.

12. If you can reduce your problem and research inquiry to the variable level (usually based upon some previous research you have identified), suggest some variables that you might examine.

Significance (for you own assessment)

13. Place yourself in the position of a funding agency or an individual who might ask the "so what" question about your study/project. Have you provided a persuasive rationale to such a person?

14. What can happen if your study is done? not done? How will things change? not change?

Evaluation Criteria: Clearly Written, Innovative Idea (would add new knowledge to the LIS field if carried out), Well Organized, Amount of Effort Evident in Finding Support for Your Decisions, Understanding Demonstrated of Research Fundamentals, Presentation (punctuation, grammar, etc.)

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Comments to: Jungwha Hong
Graduate School of Library & Information Science / UT Austin

Last updated: August 29, 1999