HON296A_2007spring (PDF)

HON 296A: Academic Research Strategies and Contexts

Spring 2007 MW 3:00–4:15

D. H. Hill Library – ITTC Lab 2

Students in this course must be enrolled in the University Honors Program.


Amanda French

Tompkins 287, 515–4186,

AIM screenname: amandafrenchncsu Office hours: T / Th 3:00–4:15

Amy VanScoy

Research and Information Services, 515–5826, AIM screenname: AmyVanScoy Office hours: by appointment

Karen Ciccone

Natural Resources Library, 515–3513,

AIM screenname: kaciccone Office hours: Fridays 9:00–12:00 or by appointment

Course Description

Academic research has changed greatly in the last fifteen years with the rise of the personal computer and the internet; the information technology that produced the online library catalog, the scholarly article database, Google, and Wikipedia has also produced many urgent “information issues.” Will there be such a thing as a library in the future? Are current laws and policies on copyright and plagiarism relevant to the Information Age? How do we balance the need to find the best information with the desire to find information fast?

This course will give students the opportunity to explore information sources for their Capstone Projects (or any topic of their choice) while increasing their “information literacy” in several ways. Students will improve their research skills by learning how to formulate effective search strategies of library catalogs, scholarly article databases, and web search engines; they will learn how to critically evaluate print and electronic information; and they will also study the economic, legal, and ethical issues surrounding the use of information technology.


Leslie F. Stebbins, Student Guide to Research in the Digital Age: How to Locate and Evaluate Information Sources (Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, 2006). $45.00

Course Assignments

Blog (20%):Throughout the semester, students will post responses to “information landscape” and “research reflection” questions on the course blog. Due every Monday beginning January 29. Blog grades will be assigned February 28 and April 11.

Research Question (20%):Each student will develop a research question to investigate throughout the semester. Some background effort will go into developing the question. Due February 7.

Interview (20%):Students will interview a professor or librarian in their discipline regarding their information-seeking habits. Due March 19.

Presentation (10%):Students will give an oral presentation summarizing what they learned about finding information in their discipline. Due in class on April 16, 18, or 23.

Report (30%):Students will write a brief (3- to 5-page) paper reporting the results of their research, with formal in-text citations and a proper bibliography of at least fifteen (15) authoritative sources. Due Friday, May 4 by email.

General Education Requirement

This course falls into the “Science, Technology, and Society” category of the General Education Requirements. The rationale and objectives for courses in this category (available at are as follows:

Rationale: North Carolina State University, as a land grant university, has a mission that stresses the application of science and technology for the betterment of humankind. It is essential, therefore, that students be exposed to the vital interactions among science, technology, society, and the quality of life.

Objectives for courses in the category of Science, Technology & Society:

Courses fulfilling the Science, Technology & Society requirement should have as a central instructional focus the following objectives. To provide sustained, rigorous, and substantive instruction, efforts to meet the GER Science, Technology & Society objectives should be evident across the entire syllabus and be reflected in course lectures, discussion, readings, projects, assignments, etc.

Each course in the Science, Technology & Society category of the GER will provide instruction and guidance that help students to:

  1. develop an understanding of the mutual relationships between science or technology and societies, including the effects of or the effects on cultures, values, industries, governments, or other facets of those societies.

  2. develop an ability to critically evaluate information regarding these mutual relationships, recognizing that the information may come from a variety of sources and perspectives.

Outcomes and Assessment

  • Objective: Help students to develop an understanding of the mutual relationships between science or technology and societies, including the effects of or the effects on cultures, values, industries, governments, or other facets of those societies.

  • Learning Outcome: Students will gain a deeper understanding of how the digitization of information affects the culture, economics, and practice of academic research.

  • Assessment: This objective will be assessed chiefly in the Interview and the Presentation, where students will reflect on both an advanced researcher’s and their own experience of using digital information tools.

  • Objective: Help students develop an ability to critically evaluate information regarding these mutual relationships, recognizing that the information may come from a variety of sources and perspectives.

  • Learning Outcome: Students will be able to identify, describe, use, and evaluate a wide variety of information resources, both print and digital, including reference books, proprietary databases, and academic journals. Students will be able to choose the best information tool or source, not the most convenient tool or source.

  • Assessment: The student’s ability to find and choose authoritative sources will be assessed in the final Report.

Other Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will be able to:

  1. pose an effective research question;

  2. identify, describe and effectively search a wide variety of information sources, including the open web, scholarly research databases, and government information sources;

  3. effectively evaluate information; and

  4. grow as a researcher through reflection and practice.

Grading Scale

A+ 98–100

A 94–97

A- 90–93

B+ 87–89

B 83–86

B- 80–82

C+ 77–79

C 73–76

C- 70–72

D+ 67–69

D 63–66

D- 60–62

F 59 and below

Attendance and Late Work Policies

1) Excuses for anticipated absences must be sent to and approved by Amanda French via email at least one day before the absence.

2) Excuses for unanticipated absences due to an emergency must be sent to and approved by Amanda French via email within one week after the absence.

3) Three unexcused absences will lower a student’s course grade by one-third, i.e., from a B to a B-. Every additional unexcused absence will lower the student’s grade an additional one-third.

4) Being late to class by fifteen minutes or more constitutes half an unexcused absence. The instructors reserve the right to judge a flagrantly inattentive student as absent without excuse.

5) Requests for extensions must be sent to and approved by Amanda French via email at least one day before the assignment due date.

6) Excuses for late work due to an emergency must be sent to and approved by Amanda French via email within one week after the assignment due date.

7) Unexcused late work will lower a student’s assignment grade by one-third for each day the assignment is late, i.e., from a B to a B-.

For more information, see NCSU’s Attendance Regulation (REG02.20.3) at

Academic Integrity

It is the understanding of the instructors of this course that the student’s typed or signed name on any assignment indicates that the student adheres to the Honor pledge (“I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this test or assignment”). The instructor supports academic integrity as defined by NCSU’s Code of Student Conduct Policy (POL11.35.1):

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with verifiable disabilities. In order to take advantage of available accommodations, students must register with Disability Services for Students at 1900 Student Health Center, Campus Box 7509, 515- 7653. For more information on NCSU’s policy on working with students with disabilities, please see the Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Regulation (REG02.20.1):

Additional Notes

This course requires no laboratory work, field trips, extra expenses, or extra transportation.


Wed 1/10

Overview of the course and expectations

  • Introduction of instructors and students

  • What do you hope to learn in this course?

  • What do you already know about research strategies?

Mon 1/15 MLK Holiday – No Class

Wed 1/17

Defining a research topic

  • What makes a good research question?

  • Using this course to explore a topic for your Capstone experience

Introduce Research Question assignment

Stebbins, Chapter 1: Research and critical evaluation

Mon 1/22

Led by Amy VanScoy

Academic Disciplines and the Research Process

  • How information behavior is studied

  • Models of the process

  • Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences

Introduce blog assignment

Bates, “Berrypicking”

Wed 1/24

Finding background information

  • Reference books

  • Evaluating reference books

Stebbins, Chapter 2: Finding Books and eBooks

Mon 1/29

Finding background information (cont’d.)

  • Using the library catalog to find books (What is the library catalog, as opposed to library databases and web?)

  • WorldCat and ILL

Blog response #1

Wed 1/31

Tools Used by Researchers

  • Citation Management with RefWorks

Set up RefWorks account

Mon 2/5

Discuss research questions

Blog response #2

Come with 3 research question drafts

Wed 2/7

Articles as Sources

  • More in-depth lesson on scholarly vs. popular

  • Trade publications

  • Conference papers and pre-prints (timeframe for dissemination of information)

  • Review articles

Research Questions Due

Stebbins, Chapter 3: Scholarly and Popular Articles

Mon 2/12

Led by Kim Duckett

Using databases to find articles

  • Proprietary article databases vs. web and library catalog

Economics of Information presentation

Blog response #3

Wed 2/14

Follow-up discussion or exercise to bring closure to Economics of Information presentation.

Using databases to find articles (cont’d)

  • Article database commonalities

  • How to find article databases for various disciplines or subjects

Mon 2/19

Using databases to find articles (cont’d.)

  • Continuation of in-class Database Exploration exercise

  • Reports on databases for different subjects

Blog response #4

Wed 2/21

Using databases to find articles (cont’d)

  • Constructing an effective search strategy (Share search strategies in small groups; teacher demos selected searches; review and discussion)

Mon 2/26

Using databases to find articles (cont’d)

  • Evaluating articles

Share questions and potential interviewee for Expert Interview

Blog response #5

Know who to interview, come with interview questions

Wed 2/28

Led by Amy VanScoy

Using databases to find articles (cont’d)

  • Follow up on evaluation

  • Citation searching Blog grades available

Visit from Larry Blanton

Spring Break 3/5 – 3/9

Mon 3/12

Expert Interviews Discussion

Blog response #6 Expert Interviews Due

Wed 3/14

Scholarly communication and the Open Access movement

  • Guest speaker: Greg Raschke, Associate Director for Collection Management, Organization, and Preservation

Mon 3/19

Intellectual Freedom and Privacy

Blog response #7

Wed 3/21

Academic Freedom

Mon 3/26

Led by Karen Ciccone

Searching for and evaluating open web sources

  • Evaluating web sources

Blog response #8

Wed 3/28

Searching for and evaluating open web sources (cont’d)

  • Expert web searching – search engines and search strategies

Mon 4/2

Intellectual property and copyright

  • Presentation by Peggy Hoon, Scholarly Communication Librarian

Blog response #9

Wed 4/4

Follow up on Intellectual property presentation Plagiarism

  • Discussion of plagiarism terms and issues

Stebbins, Chapter 8: Citing Sources, Avoiding Plagiarism, and Organizing References

Mon 4/9


  • Exercises on avoiding accidental plagiarism

Information scandals assignment

Blog response #10

Howard, “Academic Death Penalty”

Wed 4/11

Information scandals

  • Students present reports on info scandals

Blog grades available

Informal report on information scandals

Mon 4/16

Final Presentations

Wed 4/18

Final Presentations

Mon 4/23

Final Presentations

Wed 4/25

Course Evaluation and Summary

Fri 5/4

Date for final exam (there will be no exam)

Research Reports due via email by 4pm

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