Foundations of Information Science

UNC SILS, INLS 201, Spring 2016


Throughout the semester (approximately once every two weeks, 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 8AM, 1.5 hours before we meet.

Probe #1: What is information (science)?

Due January 21.

Probe #2: Levels of categorization

Due February 2.

Probe #3: Controlled vocabularies

Due February 9.

Probe #4: Comparing relational databases and XML

Due February 23.

Probe #5: Search user interface evaluation

Due April 19.

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 a search user interface of your choice, and evaluate it in terms of Hearst’s guidelines. Try to choose a search user interface that others might not have seen before—perhaps something related to a specialized interest or hobby of yours. Consider each guideline in turn, and determine whether your chosen search interface addresses it. Try to identify the specific features of the interface that address the guideline. Note also the guidelines that are not addressed by any features of the search interface.

Then, add one slide to this deck of slides to present your findings. Your slide should show a screenshot of the interface. It should also explain one guideline that the interface successfully addresses (the screenshot should show the feature that address, and one guideline that the interface does not address (but should). Don’t forget to put your name someplace on your slide!