INF 397.3 - Digital Libraries ResearchSchool of Information - The University of Texas at Austin
Spring, 2010

Assignment 1: Digital Library Research Project

This assignment encompasses all the work required to collaborate with a small group of your fellow students on a formal research project in the general area of digital libraries. Groups will be formed around potential projects discussed online and in class.

Assignment Goals

A fundamental goal of this assignment is for you to gain practical experience in formal scholarly research. Through working on a substantial digital library project over the semester you will have the opportunity to develop a project from a general topic to a focused problem statement, research questions, a literature review, and a methodology plan. Ideally, but depending on the project, you will also execute the methodology plan and produce at least preliminary data or prototypes that you can analyze and discuss. To accomplish in a relatively short amount of time the substantial amount of work a true research project usually requires, you will work on this project in groups. Working in groups will also enable you to benefit from the ideas and strengths of your fellow group members.

Another important goal of this assignment is to help the entire class become better acquainted with your chosen interest area within the field of digital libraries. As the semester progresses, your group will have spent considerable time investigating your chosen topic; by sharing your work and ideas, both through the Basecamp project management site and in class, the rest of us will benefit by better understanding the current state of research relevant to your topic, the research questions you think are important to investigate, and your ideas and strategies for pursuing these questions.

Finally, this assignment is intended to give you practice devising strategies and techniques for effectively communicating research, both orally and in writing.

Assignment Deliverables

At different points during the semester (to be posted on the course schedule) your group will be required to turn in drafts of important components (e.g., problem statement, research questions, methodology plan) of your research project. We will discuss these in class so that you can share ideas and obtain feedback from the people in other groups. These component drafts will not be graded, but are required.

The formal, graded portion of this assignment will be a written research paper submitted by your group. This paper should be written in the format and to the standards of a high-quality scholarly publication venue. We will discuss potential publication venue guidelines your group might use as your project progresses. References and citations should follow a recognized style (e.g., APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago). Do not make up your own style, even if you think it is way better than the established styles.

The final paper is due at 3 pm on the last day of class, May 6th, as both hardcopy and PDF. In class that day, your group should also be prepared to summarize the current status of your project and discuss how your think your project could best move forward, along with any significant issues or concerns you might have for the project.


This assignment is worth 45% of your final grade. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, each member of your group will receive the same grade.

Your grade for this assignment will be based on the following rubric, with 45 points the maximum grade you can receive:

Criteria Observed qualities
Excellent Good Poor
Introduction to topic
(6 · 4 · 2 points)
Clear introduction to topic area; effective orientation for body of paper Overall topic area less effectively described; limited orientation to body of paper No clear explanation of the topic area; no transition to body of paper
Problem statement
(6 · 4 · 2 points)
Clear and concise description of what your project sets out to do; conveys originality, direction, and justification or value of your proposed research Limited or less clear description of your research direction; less convincing of your project's originality, direction, and/or potential value No clear description of your specific research direction; unconvincing justification for the work
Research questions
(6 · 4 · 2 points)
Clear, concise research questions that you propose to address; key terms or concepts well-defined; logically follow from problem statement Less clear research questions; too few or too many; key terminology not well-defined; not clear how the questions relate to the problem statement Questions written at the wrong level; not true research questions; questions don't follow from the problem statement
Literature review
(6 · 4 · 2 points)
Solid, logical, and relevant review; review is a synthesis of relevant literature, not simply summaries; relationship of reviewed literature to your project is clear Adequate summaries but less synthesis of covered literature; less clear how reviewed literature relates to your project No attempt at synthesis of reviewed literature; lit review not connected to your proposed work; clearly too long or too short
Methodology plan
(6 · 4 · 2 points)
Clear, detailed description of how you will investigate your research questions; realistic, relevant plan, with enough detail for the reader to judge; logistical details, timeline, materials, subjects discussed as appropriate Less clear how plan will enable you to address research questions; omission of significant details necessary to carry out the plan; questionable whether plan is realistic Plan incomplete in significant ways; doesn't enable you to address research questions; unrealistic or unclear how work would be accomplished
Data analysis/Discussion
(5 · 3 · 1 points)
Clear, thorough discussion of any final or preliminary research results; appropriate conclusions made based on methodology/data; research questions appropriately and logically addressed based on results; use of appropriate tables/figures Good discussion/conclusions but not convincingly supported by results; research questions not fully addressed; results not fully or clearly described Unclear or incomplete discussion of results; unconvincing or lack of connection to research questions
(3 · 2 · 1 points)
Solid, logical summary of work completed; insights and suggestions for future work follow from work completed Some conclusion or overall synthesis provided but not well supported by body of paper; unclear what your work suggests for the future of the topic No clear summary or synthesis of work completed is provided; conclusion disconnected from body of paper
Clarity of writing
(4 · 2 · 0 points)
Clearly written, coherent argument; structural variety; reads as a connected, informative narrative; effectively reflects the work completed Generally well-written but flow of argument not always easy to follow; lack of variety in structure from paragraph to paragraph; more than a few spelling or grammar mistakes Significant spelling or grammar mistakes; difficult to follow flow of narrative or arguments made; does not reflect amount of work completed
(3 · 2 · 1 points)
All references match citations; proper citation and reference style followed throughout; inclusion of appropriate data collection instruments, etc. Correct citation and reference format used but occasional minor omissions or formatting problems; omission of appropriate appendices Inconsistencies between citations and references; incorrect citation or reference formatting

©Gary Geisler
Last revised April 18, 2010