INLS 200-001: Retrieving & Analyzing Information
[Syllabus] [Schedule] [Reading] [Blackboard]
[Research Question] [Source Evaluation] [Annotated Bibliography] [Final Portfolio]
Research Question Development
Each of you will develop a research question to investigate during the semester. Create a "prospectus" for your research question. The prospectus should demonstrate that you have selected a topic that is at least somewhat academic. The topic should be narrow enough to fit this assignment (which requires only a limited number of resources), but broad enough that you will be able to locate a variety of types of sources. For example, you will be asked to locate web sites, scholarly journal articles, circulating books, and reference books on your topic. A topic that appears on the web, but not in published literature, would not be a good topic. Similarly, a topic like "global warming" is far too broad and cannot be adequately addressed using a limited amount of sources.
There are 2 deliverables for this assignment:
Your question drafts should be one-paragraph descriptions of the question you wish to investigate. A good research question must be large enough to be interesting, but small enough to be do-able in the time you have available, which in this case is a semester. Your research question should therefore be focused, but not too narrow. It should be reasonable to expect that your research question is answerable (for example, "what is the meaning of life" is not answerable), but reasonably complex and challenging to answer (for example, "why is the sky blue" is trivial to answer).
We will discuss the research questions in class. I will give you feedback on the suitability of your question for the purposes of this assignment. Your second question description should include both your revised question and your original question (and please label the two so I know which is which), and a brief write-up of how and your reasons why the question has changed.
I expect that your question will evolve during the course of your working on this assignment. For example, sub-questions may develop as you learn more about your topic, or the question itself may change as your interests change during the process of information retrieval. As you continue to turn in portions of this assignment, you should also be creating a journal of the development of your question: you will submit this journal as a part of your final project. Every change to your question should be documented, with a brief description of the reason(s) for the revision. You may ask the professor to review revisions at any time. The final version of the question will be the basis for the final report of the assignment.
is a prospectus?
"A prospectus is a proposal to undertake a research project. A prospectus is a statement that briefly describes the questions, materials, and methods a researcher will use in his or her research. A prospectus indicates that the research project fits the required parameters."
What are the parts of the prospectus?
"A prospectus contains a clear, concise introduction to the topic of the research."
"A prospectus states the main research question(s) that the researcher wishes to answer."
"A prospectus summarizes the basic arguments that surround the research topic."
A prospectus lists any resources that they researcher has already located on the topic. These sources should be listed (using APA citation style) and briefly annotated. This list of resources is not expected (at this point) be lengthy. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the research is at the very beginning of his/her process.
is a prospectus written?
"The audience for the prospectus is the reader who will determine whether or not the research project should be undertaken. This reader may be a professor, a research committee, a graduate degree committee, a funding agency, or the management of the company or agency for whom the researcher will conduct the study."
How to write research prospectus
See the research prospectus template and research prospectus example files on Blackboard.
Research questions that have been pursued in recent semesters include:
The following list
includes many, but certainly not all, of the areas within the field of
Information & Library Science. For your research question, you may choose a
topic within one of the areas below.
- Community Networks
- Computer-Mediated Communication
- Copyright & Intellectual Property
- The Digital Divide
- Digital Libraries
- Digital Government
- Electronic Publishing
- Human-Computer Interaction
- Information Architecture
- Information Retrieval
- Information Seeking
- Information Use
- Information Warfare
- Intellectual Freedom & Censorship
- Knowledge Management
- Open Access Publishing
- Open Source Software
- Publishing (professional, such as journalism or books, or personal, such as blogs)
- Reference & Digital or Virtual Reference
- Social Informatics
- User Modeling
- Virtual Communities
- Web 2.0
- ... or other topic of your choice
These topics are very broad; you could not do a research project for this course on any of these topics as stated. You could not, for example, do a research project on the topic of Digital Government in a semester. You will need to identify a narrower sub-topic within one of these broad areas for your research question. For example, within Digital Government, some good topics might be: How is YouTube influencing the 2008 Presidential election? What are the pros and cons of different voting technologies?
For very complete coverage & discussion of topics in the field of Information & Library Science, see the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science.
INLS 200 is a prerequisite to enrollment in both the SILS major and minor, so of course for most of you it will be your first exposure to the field of Information & Library Science. I will discuss the "geography" of the field in class, but I do not expect you to understand what all of these topics involve right away. Please ask if there is a topic that you think might be of interest to you, but on which you want some clarification.
Criteria Used to Evaluate This Assignment (Total: 10 points, 5 points per each draft)
5 points: Question is stated clearly and succinctly. Scope of the question is appropriate. The question will require you to search a range of information sources and types of sources. For the 2nd draft: you have clearly done some research and used your findings to refine your question.
1-4 points: Points will be deducted for the following: Question is not stated clearly. Scope of the question is too broad or too narrow, or there is more than one research topic packed into your question. The question will require you to search in only one type of source.
The first version of the question is due September 1. Your question description should include (1) a research question, (2) a description of the topic, and (3) a description of the initial research on the topic (Use the research prospectus template and example files on Blackboard). The instructor will comment on the suitability of your question for the purposes of this assignment and return the draft to the students. The students will revise the question based on the comment and resubmit it. The second version of the question is due September 15.