Foundations of Information Science

UNC SILS, INLS 201, Spring 2015


Throughout the semester (approximately once a week, or slightly less often) I will give you “probe” questions to answer online before coming to class. These questions will “probe” your understanding of the material you’ve just read. They serve 2 purposes:

  1. They show me that you’ve done the reading, and
  2. they highlight areas that you may be having trouble with, so I can spend more time on them in class.

Because the probes will involve concepts that we have not yet discussed, you will be graded mainly on the level of effort you put into trying to answer, rather than the correctness of your answer (and some questions may not have a clear correct answer anyway). So:

  • If you don’t answer the probe at all, you get zero points.
  • If you try to answer the probe, but make no reference to the readings or anything else we’ve covered in class, you get one point.
  • If you answer the probe and refer to concepts from the readings or from class, but use them incorrectly or don’t fully answer the question, you get two points.
  • If you answer the probe completely and correctly, making reference to the readings, class notes, or outside materials, you get the full three points.

The questions will be posted 24 hours before they are due, and they will be due at 7AM, 2.5 hours before we meet.

Probe #1: What is information (science)?

Due January 20.

Probe #2: Relational Databases

Due February 10.

Probe #3: Search User Interface Evaluation

Due April 16.

In the conclusion of the first chapter of Search User Interfaces, Hearst lists seven guidelines for designing effective search user interfaces. In sections 1.5 to 1.11, she explains each of these guidelines in turn, and discusses specific ways of addressing each guideline. For example, one of the specific ways of addressing the first guideline, “Offer Efficient and Informative Feedback”, is to “Show Search Results Immediately.”

For this probe you will look at the web search engine DuckDuckGo, and evaluate it in terms of Hearst’s guidelines. You will consider each guideline in turn, determine whether DuckDuckGo addresses it, and specify the specific features DuckDuckGo provides that address the guideline.

The class will work on this collaboratively by editing this deck of slides to show whether and how DuckDuckGo addresses each guideline. Each slide should show a screenshot and description of a feature DuckDuckGo provides, and how this feature addresses one of the guidelines. Be sure to sign into Google before editing the slides, so that your name will be associated with your edits and I can grade your contributions.