Foundations of Information Science

UNC SILS, INLS 201, Spring 2018

Reading responses and short writings

If you look at the schedule for this course, you’ll see that there are assigned readings to complete before most class meetings. The course is structured so that the more difficult readings are assigned for Tuesdays (giving you four days between meetings to complete them).

During the semester, you are required to write short responses to four of the Tuesday readings. You can choose to respond to whichever Tuesday readings you wish, but two of them should be readings from before the midterm, and two of them should be readings from after the midterm.

These are intended to be responses to the readings, not summarizations of them. Here are some ideas for how you might respond:

  • Who is the writer, what were they trying to do, and did they succeed?
  • What did you like about the reading? Did it have any particularly interesting ideas or elegant turns of phrase?
  • What did you expect when you began the reading, and how did those expectations change as you read?
  • What did you find confusing or hard to understand? Be specific—figure out where and why you got confused or lost.
  • Were there statement or ideas that you strongly agreed or disagreed with?
  • Did you learn something new? Is this new thing you learned relevant to your life? Why or why not?

Your responses should be posted to your wiki. Please post your response before the class for which the reading was assigned.

During the semester there will also be a few other short writing assignments to be posted to the wiki—I will announce these in class.

Midterm class presentation

Due March 6.

In class on March 6, each of you will give a two minute, one slide presentation briefly explaining the topic of your paper. By noon on March 5, please send me an email with the subject line “midterm paper: [your topic]”. Replace [your topic] with a brief title or description of your topic. If you want to show a slide, attach it to your email.

Midterm paper

Due March 6.

The midterm paper is the first part of the final paper for this course.

In other words, think of the midterm paper and the final paper as two parts of the same paper. The point of this paper is

  1. to give you the opportunity to investigate something you’re interested in, and how it relates to information science, and

  2. to help you figure out what you need to know (what to major in? what classes to take? who to talk to?) in order to follow your interests further.

For example: suppose you’re interested in sports. Can you connect this interest to information science? Yes, you can: most sports rely on various different forms and systems of documentation to exist. The more professionalized a sport is, the more dependent on standardized documentation it is. Furthermore, the ways sports are consumed by fans and spectators are highly dependent on information technology.

There are a number of perspectives from which one might be interested in this topic:

One might be interested in it as a research topic: for example, one might ask “How do different technologies for following and watching sports affect fan experiences?” and carry out a study intended to answer that. Or you might take a historical view: “How have changes in information and communications technologies affected the development of baseball in the U.S.?”

Or one might be interested in it as a business opportunity: “How can I create a business that successfully meets a need for affordable sports content consumption on mobile devices?”

Or you might be interested it it as a catalyst for change: “College sports are broken; we need to do X to fix them, and information technology might / might not help: here’s why.”

These are far from the only possible perspectives from which to approach a topic; you can probably come up with more yourself.

So, in addition to having some topic you’re interested in, you also need to have a particular way you’re approaching the topic—again, based on your interests.

Your paper will serve as your plan to pursue those interests.

At the midterm, the first part of this paper is due. This first part should lay the groundwork for your plan, including:

  1. a short description of your topic, and how you’re approaching it, and
  2. a review of what others have done related to your topic. This should also include any readings we’ve done for class that relate in any way to your topic.

The paper you turn in at the midterm should be about three pages long (single spaced). A page is roughly three paragraphs, so three pages is nine paragraphs. A paragraph is about six sentences, or 200 words. Plan to spend 2–3 paragraphs describing your topic and your approach, and about 6–7 paragraphs summarizing what others have written or done related to that topic. If you’re having trouble structuring your paper, I suggest the following:

  • The first paragraph should introduce your topic: some thing or practice you are interested in, and why it is interesting (perhaps because of some problem it causes or exacerbates).

  • The second paragraph should summarize the current state of knowledge or best practices in relation to your topic. Where the first paragraph is about the concrete world, this paragraph will be more about ideas and processes.

  • The third paragraph should be about you: what’s the contribution you’d like to make (even if you aren’t ready to make it yet)? What’s your approach to or perspective on this topic?

  • The next three paragraphs should expand upon the first paragraph, providing general, historical facts, explanations, and background, drawn from readings you’ve done on your own (with proper citation).

  • The final three paragraphs should expand upon the second paragraph. Here you will survey important concepts and categories, drawn from research literature or reflections by professional practitioners (again, with proper citation). These paragraphs present the theories and ideas that will inform your paper. This would also be a good place to draw upon concepts from the readings we’ve done for class.

Submit this assignment.

Final paper

Due April 26.

At the end of the semester, the second part of your paper is due. You should already have some topic you’re interested in, and some particular way you’re approaching that topic, as described in the first part of that paper. Plus, you should be familiar with some of what other people have written or done related to your topic.

The paper you turn in at the end of the term should be about five pages long (single spaced). This is five additional pages on top of the three pages you turned in at the midterm. A page is roughly three paragraphs, so five pages is fifteen paragraphs. A paragraph is about six sentences, or 200 words. If you’re having trouble structuring your paper, I suggest the following:

  • Introduction (3 paragraphs)
    1. Summarize the general topic
    2. Summarize the research you did for the midterm paper (what others have done)
    3. Summarize your final paper (what you plan to do)
  • Where are you now? (2 paragraphs)
    1. Relevant educational experience up until now
    2. Relevant life / work experience up until now
  • UNC-focused plans (3 paragraphs)
    1. Courses
    2. Non-coursework learning opportunities
    3. Meeting people / networking
  • Looking outside of / beyond UNC (3 paragraphs)
    1. Internships / field experiences
    2. Grad school - necessary or not?
    3. Specific places / organizations to target
  • Reflection (2 paragraphs)
    1. Weaknesses of your plan
    2. Strengths of your plan
  • Conclusion (2 paragraphs)
    1. Re-summarize your plan (echoes paragraph #3)
    2. Immediate next steps

Submit this assignment.