LIS 656: Online Information Retrieval
Online, Spring 2013

"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information on it. "
Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784), quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson

Teresa S. Welsh, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Southern Miss School of Library & Information Science
Cook Library, Room 206H
Phone: 601.296.0528

This three hour course focuses on applications and issues related to online database services and resources.

Online class discussions are scheduled on Thursday evenings, 6:30-8:00pm Central time.
Prerequisites: Successful completion of LIS 501.

Drop Dates
The last day that this course may be dropped with refund is January 28th.
The last day to drop full-term classes without academic penalty is February 7th.

Required Text may be ordered from

Online Retrieval: A Dialog of Theory & Practice
Second Edition (1999)
by G. Walker & J. Janes

Students will be assigned temporary Dialog passwords for use during this course after submitting a Dialog Student Use Agreement. Students will need regular access to computer resources and to the Internet.

Additional course materials will be available online from the vendors, such as Dialog.

Course Objectives

After completion of the course students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate via chat and discussion board an understanding of the professional ethical concerns of an ALA member as regards the issues relevant to protecting patron confidentiality, record maintenance, and compliance with copyright.

  2. Apply the concepts of information organization and retrieval to determine the appropriate resources and techniques to effectively retrieve materials using online computer resources.

  3. Recognize, discuss and apply the concepts and principles of question negotiation, communication skills, information seeking behaviors and retrieval, including being able to coherently explain the differences and implications of precision and recall.

  4. Evaluate information resources based upon subject coverage, ease of use, level of coverage and economic considerations.

  5. Apply vendor database systems and Internet resources to the successful resolution of information inquiries. Demonstration of this will involve conducting and presenting a detailed reference search on topics provided by the instructor.

  6. Demonstrate an understanding of the effects of technology on communication and organizational structures.

Weekly Schedule (subject to revision)

Week 1: Information Retrieval

Week 2: EBSCOhost, Boolean Operators

Week 3: Searching the Net

Week 4: Introduction to Dialog

Week 5: Database Construction

Week 6: Database Selection

Week 7: Search Techniques

Week 8: Controlled Vocabulary

Week 9: Spring Break

Week 10: Free-text Searching

Week 11: Additional Search Features

Week 12: ISI Citation Indexes

Week 13: Recall and Precision

Week 14: Lexis-Nexis

Week 15: Running a Search Service

Week 16: Final Research Paper

Course Requirements

  1. 8 Search Exercises (5 points each)

  2. Database research paper (40 points)

  3. Class Participation (20 points)
    • Students are expected to read the online material and required texts in order to participate in discussion board postings and chats.
    • Students are expected to attend each chat for the entire time of the session. All absences from chats will be recorded. Points will be deducted from the final grade for missed chats or failure to post responses to questions on the Discussion Board.



Course Policies

Academic Code of Conduct

Students are expected to follow the Academic Code of Conduct, which includes mutual respect and academic honesty.

"When cheating is discovered, the faculty member may give the student an F on the work involved or in the course. If further disciplinary action is deemed appropriate, the student should be reported to the dean of students. In addition to being a violation of academic honesty, cheating violates the Code of Student Conduct and may be grounds for probation, suspension, and/or expulsion. Students on disciplinary suspension may not enroll in any courses offered by The University of Southern Mississippi." USM Graduate Bulletin, p. 37.

"Plagiarism is scholarly theft, and it is defined as the unacknowledged use of secondary sources. More specifically, any written or oral presentation in which the writer or speaker does not distinguish clearly between original and borrowed material constitutes plagiarism. Because students, as scholars, must make frequent use of the concepts and facts developed by other scholars, plagiarism is not the mere use of another's facts and ideas. However, it is plagiarism when students present the work of other scholars as if it were their own work. Plagiarism is committed in a number of ways:

  1. Reproducing another author's writing as if it were one's own.
  2. Paraphrasing another author's work without citing the original.
  3. Borrowing from another author's ideas, even though those ideas are reworded, without giving credit.
  4. Copying another author's organization without giving credit.
Plagiarism is a serious offense. An act of plagiarism may lead to a failing grade on the paper and in the course, as well as sanctions that may be imposed by the student judicial system." USM Graduate Bulletin, p. 37.

Disability Statement

If a student has a disability that qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act and requires accommodations, he/she should contact the Office for Disability Accommodations (ODA) for information on appropriate policies and procedures. Disabilities covered by ADA may include learning, psychiatric, physical disabilities, or chronic health disorders. Students can contact ODA if they are not certain whether a medical condition/disability qualifies. Mailing address: 118 College Drive, # 8586; Telephone: 601- 266-5024; TTY: 601-266-6837; FAX: 601-266-6035.

Note: This is an abbreviated version of the course syllabus. The complete syllabus is posted on the Blackboard LIS656 course site.

Web Page Design
Teresa S. Welsh
Updated 11/07/2012