Introduction to Research in Informatics, Spring 2015

Course Coordinates:
Tuesdays, 10:00 – 12:40 PM
IT 395

Dr. Amy Voida
IT 591
Office Hours: By Appointment


This syllabus will function as a collaboratively constructed contract among all of the stakeholders in this course. It is a living document that will evolve through in-class discussion as the dynamic needs of the students and their research emerge. Students are responsible for being in class, taking ownership of this course and their learning, and noting all changes to the syllabus as it evolves. The instructor is responsible for being attuned and responsive to the academic needs of the students and to the dynamic and often unpredictable nature of the research process. This syllabus is a starting point for ongoing dialogue…


Course Description

This course presents a broad overview of research philosophy, designs and methods. Its focus is on social science research methods, and the content is specifically tailored to reflect the rapidly emerging field of informatics. The course will include major methods that are at the core of contemporary approaches to research in informatics.

This is a project-based course in which students will learn core research competencies by designing, conducting, and writing up the results of their research. At the conclusion of the course, each student will be able to:

  • Collaborate in the construction of new knowledge;
  • Translate a topic of research into multiple empirical research questions reflecting different methodological perspectives;
  • Articulate the strengths and weakness of different research methods in a given context;
  • Conduct a robust literature review on a given research topic and identify gaps of knowledge in that literature;
  • Design a cohesive research endeavor to answer a research question that has not yet been addressed sufficiently;
  • Collect research data in a rigorous manner;
  • Analyze research data in a rigorous manner;
  • Identify the unique contributions of a research endeavor, specifying its intellectual merit and broader impact to society
  • Discuss research-in-progress via textual, visual, and oral modalities;
  • Address the ethical issues that accompany any research endeavor; and
  • Offer cogent and constructive critiques of others’ research



Week Of
Agenda Readings
Other Deliverables

(Due at the start of class unless otherwise noted)

13 Jan

Introduction to the Course, the Research Context & our Community Partner

Bibliography Workshop

No Textbook

Bahrampour, T. (2014, April 9). More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise. The Washington Post.

Resnikoff, N. (2014, August 18). The hunger crisis in America’s universities. msnbc.



20 Jan

Exploratory Fieldwork: Volunteering at Paws Pantry

***Meet at the Campus Center, room 220***

No textbook or research readings

IRB certification (CITI Training for Social/Behavioral Researcher) & COI statement due
27 Jan

***Attend Talk by Visiting Researcher***

Bibliography Workshop

Interview Protocols

Ch 8: Interviews & Focus Groups (pp. 178-215)

Hoisington, A., Shultz, J.A. & Butkus, S. (2002). Coping strategies and nutrition education needs among food pantry users. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 34(6), 326-333.

Cady, C.L. (2014). Food insecurity as a student issue. Journal of College & Character 15(4), 265-271.

3 Feb

***Attend Talk by Visiting Researcher***

Bibliography Workshop

Sample Interview

Ch 7: Case Studies (pp. 144-174)

Dombrowski, L., Brubaker, J.R., Hirano, S.H., Mazmanian, M. & Hayes, G.R. (2013). It takes a network to get dinner: designing location-based systems to address local food needs. In Proceedings of the 2013 ACM international joint conference on Pervasive and ubiquitous computing (UbiComp ’13). New York: ACM Press.

10 Feb

Interview Debriefing

Grounded Theory I

Bibliography Workshop

Ch 9: Ethnography (pp. 218-247)

Tarasuk, V. & Eakin, J.M. (2003). Charitable food assistance as symbolic gesture: an ethnographic study of food banks in Ontario. Social Science & Medicine 56, 1505-1515.

Transcribe assigned portion of our interview with Informant 1 (Interview folder in Drive)
17 Feb

***Attend Talk by Visiting Researcher***

Grounded Theory II

No new reading; revise annotated bibliography entries for all papers thus far (see teams in the Google Doc file)

First-round interview completed and transcribed, with an initial round of coding done in comments. Audio files must be submitted to me via Box. Anonymized transcripts should be posted in our Google Drive folder.
24 Feb

Bibliography Workshop

Grounded Theory III

Ch 6: Diaries (pp. 126-138)

Voida, A., Yao, Z. & Korn, M. (forthcoming). (Infra)structures of volunteering.  To appear in Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2015).  Vancouver, BC, Canada, March 14–18. 

Lingering first-round interviews completed and transcribed, with an initial round of coding done in comments. Audio files must be submitted to me via Box. Anonymized transcripts should be posted in our Google Drive folder.

Everyone brings one transcript worth of *their* comments on post-it notes to class.

3 Mar

Bibliography Workshop

Literature Review I

Grounded Theory IV

Ch 5: Surveys (pp. 100-122)

Skim each of the following, particularly with respect to thinking through the pros/cons and implications of each population sampled on the findings that are reported (for your bibliography, just compile a list of statistics that you think might be useful):

Weinfield, N.S., Mills, G., Borger, C., Gearing, M., Macaluso, T., Montaquila, J. & Zedlewski, S. (2014). Hunger in America 2014.

United States Department of Agriculture. (2013). Food security in the U.S.: Key statistics and graphics.

Prepare (collectively) a full annotated bibliography for the following:

Eisinger, P. (2002). Organizational capacity and organizational effectiveness among street-level food assistance programs. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 31, 115–130

Schedule your second-round interview(s)
10 Mar

Bibliography Workshop

Research Face-Off

One set of notes combined for the following two chapters:

  • Ch 2: Experimental Research (pp. 20-38)
  • Ch 3: Experimental Design (pp. 42-66)

Farrimond, S.J. & Leland, Jr., L.S. (2006). Increasing donations to supermarket food-bank bins using proximal prompts. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 39(2), 249-251.

Initial second-round interview completed and transcribed. Audio files must be submitted to me via Box. Anonymized transcripts should be posted in our Google Drive folder.

Everyone brings one transcript worth of *their* comments on post-it notes to class.

17 Mar No Class – Spring Break
24 Mar

Literature Review II

Grounded Theory V

Forked Research Refinement



Research Readings:

Everyone chooses one new paper to add to our annotated bibliography.

Lingering second-round interviews completed and transcribed, with an initial round of coding done in comments. Audio files must be submitted to me via Box. Anonymized transcripts should be posted in our Google Drive folder.

Everyone brings two transcripts worth of *their* comments on post-it notes to class.

31 Mar

***Attend Talk by Visiting Researcher***

Pre-Activity for Midterm Exam Part 3

 N/A Midterm Exam Parts 1-2 Due (covering the textbook chapters & the research papers)
7 Apr

Grounded Theory VI

Research Writing: Method & Results


Midterm Exam Part 3 Due (covering the textbook chapters & the research papers)

Bring a fat stack of open coding on post-it notes!!!

14 Apr

Research Writing: Discussion

Cotugna, N., Glick, M., & Vickery, C.E. (1994). An outcome evaluation of a food bank program. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 94(8), 888–890

Units/Currencies results section due Sunday night for feedback
21 Apr

Paper Editing Workshop


Full draft of paper due Sunday night for feedback


28 Apr Research Writing: Design Implications

Please submit a course evaluation!

Final paper due 5 May, midnight (with  effort distribution among team members posted for each section)

Personal portfolio due 6 May, midnight

7 May

(Finals Week)

Final Exam Time

Revise & Resubmit Meetings by Appt. Only (signup in Drive)

22 May A subset of final research papers, as curated by the instructor, may be submitted to the Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing or other suitable venue.



The primary text for this course will be:

  • Lazar, J., Feng, J.H. & Hochheiser, H. (2011). Research methods in human-computer interaction. Introducing research methodology: A beginner’s guide to doing a research project. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Supplementary readings will be provided by the instructor &/or will be freely available online via IUPUI site licenses. You will need to be logged in to the university network or connected via VPN to access these articles for free.


Assessment & Evaluation

Class Participation 25%
Reading Notes 10%
CITI Certification & COI Statement  5%
 Interview 1 5%
 Interview 2 5%
Survey 5%
Midterm Exam 15%
Final Paper 25%
Personal Portfolio 5%


All grades will be recorded as individual grades. The final paper will receive a team score; each individual’s grade will be computed as a modulation of the team score based on their percentage contribution as agreed upon by all team members. The team score will comprise 2/3 of the individual’s grade and the percentage of the team score corresponding to an individual’s percentage effort will comprise 1/3 of the individual’s grade. For example, if a team of four earned a score of 90% on a deliverable and the percentage efforts reported by the team included 2 students at 25% effort (reflecting the weight that could be assumed if all students participated equally), 1 student at 35% effort, and 1 student at 15% effort, the following grades would be earned:

  • Sample students at 25% effort: (90% + 90% + (25% effort * 90 points earned * 4 team members / 100 points possible))/3 = 90%
  • Sample student at 35% effort: (90% + 90% + (35% * 90 points earned * 4 team members / 100 points possible)/3 = 102%
  • Sample student at 15% effort (90% + 90% + (15% * 90 points earned * 4 team members / 100 points possible)/3 = 78%

Numerical grades will be converted to letter grades based on the following scale:

A+       97 – 100 B+       87 – 89.99 C+       77 – 79.99 D+       67 – 69.99 F          0 – 59.99
A         93 – 96.99 B         83 – 86.99 C         73 – 76.99 D         63 – 66.99  
A-        90 – 92.99 B-        80 – 82.99 C-        70 – 72.99 D-        60 – 62.99  


Incomplete grades will not be given to individuals in this course, as any successful research enterprise requires the commitment of all researchers.

If you experience a personal emergency during the semester, please obtain a letter from a doctor or other legitimate source of verification. Although much of the work in this course cannot be made up after the fact, we will work with your research team to re-balance contributions to the research deliverables and to provide any opportunities possible to help you succeed.



All assignments are due by the date and time posted. There is no “late policy” in this class; there are deadlines. If you want to earn credit for your work, you should plan on meeting these deadlines. You may earn partial credit on assignments by submitting whatever you have finished at the time of the deadline.

In the following assignment descriptions, levels of learning per Bloom’s Taxonomy are inlined in CAPS.

Class Participation
Research on learning tells us that most students learn best by “doing,” not be being lectured at for three hours. Therefore, in this course, we will spend class time doing research (APPLICATION, ANALYSIS, EVALUATION, SYNTHESIS). I will present short mini-lectures (KNOWLEDGE) on key topics as they become relevant to our research. Because substantive research will be happening during our class time, class participation will constitute the largest single portion of your grade. If you are not in class, you will be unable to contribute to moving our research forward and that will be a loss to all of us.

In order for us to use class time most productively, all students must arrive prepared. This means that you have read the textbook chapter (KNOWLEDGE), taken notes (COMPREHENSION), and come with questions of clarification (where needed). You will also have done your best to read and make sense of the research readings for the week (KNOWLEDGE, COMPREHENSION) and have posted one or two ideas from the paper to the annotated bibliography entry in our Google Docs file (COMPREHENSION, ANALYSIS). Because research readings are more difficult than textbook readings, it is not assumed that all students will understand all aspects of each paper when they walk in the door; it is, however, critical that you have taken as much as you can from the paper so that you can contribute productively (even if it is to ask questions about the paper) when we review these research papers together (COMPREHENSION, ANALYSIS).

The last 5-10 minutes of every class period (except for the midterm exam week) will be reserved for you to write a brief reflection about your class participation (APPLICATION, EVALUATION, SYNTHESIS). Sample prompts will be provided by the instructor in our Google Drive folder. The diary reflections should provide details about your research journey that will be essential for your personal portfolio at the end of the semester. Each week’s diary entry will also include a numerical self-assessment of class participation according to the following rubric:

0 points Not physically present OR Behaved in ways that were a distraction to the learning environment
1 point Not mentally present OR Was engaged in other activities not related to the discussion
2 points Was consistently engaged, listening to the discussion
3 points Contributed productively to discussion once or twice AND Contributed productively to the bibliography document once or twice
4 points Contributed productively to the discussion three or more times AND Contributed productively to the bibliography document two or more times


Reading Notes (Methods Quick Reference)
At the beginning of each class for which a reading was assigned, students will show their reading notes to the instructor (COMPREHENSION). Reading notes should follow a structured format provided by the instructor (the template will be posted in our Google Drive folder). Together, your complete set of reading notes will constitute a quick reference to a suite of research methods that you can use once you are asked to jump in and do user research for your job. Reading notes will be evaluated as follows:

  • All prompts completed by the start of class: 4/4 points
  • At least half but not all prompts completed by the start of class: 2/4 points
  • Assignment not submitted by the start of class: 0/4 points

Your reading notes may be used on the midterm exam, so the quality of your notes will be assessed primarily via that venue. You are encouraged to revisit and elaborate your notes at any time over the course of the semester.

CITI Certification & COI Statement
Ethics training (KNOWLEDGE) is expected of anyone conducting research with human subjects—anyone involved in the design, conduct, or reporting of the research; and anyone having significant interaction with participants. Students must complete the CITI course entitled “Social/Behavioral Researcher” and fill out the brief Conflict of Interest (COI) statement online [OneStart>Services Tab (top)>Kauli Coeus Tab (left)>Grants Office General Resources Pane (bottom right)>Conflict of Interest]

Each student will be responsible for conducting three interviews during the first half of the semester (APPLICATION, SYNTHESIS). The first interview will be with someone involved in the campus food pantry. The second and third interviews will be with someone involved with a community food bank. Students are responsible for scheduling the interview at a time of mutual convenience; for carrying out the interview in accordance with the highest standards of professionalism and research ethics; and for transcribing, anonymizing and posting the interview transcript to our Google Drive folder. 

Midterm Exam
The midterm exam will cover all assigned textbook chapters and research papers used in the bibliography workshops (primarily KNOWLEDGE, COMPREHENSION, APPLICATION). Students may bring a hard copy version of their reading notes to use as a reference during the exam.

Final Presentation & Paper
Over the course of the semester, the class will collectively examine a research topic from multiple stakeholders’ (and potentially methodological) vantage points. Students will present this research orally (via a presentation that will be open to outside audiences) and in written form, following the ACM publication template (available in the Google Drive folder) (ANALYSIS, EVALUATION, SYNTHESIS). Final research deliverables will be created either as a whole class or in teams of no fewer than three students (upon consultation with the instructor). Final papers will be curated and outstanding research may be submitted to an appropriate publication venue.

Personal Portfolio
The personal portfolio will provide an opportunity for each student to put their best foot forward in communicating their individual contribution to the larger research endeavor and to reflect on the role of the research experience in their personal and professional development (APPLICATION, EVALUATION, SYNTHESIS). It is expected that the students will draw in substantive ways from the class participation diaries to ground their reflection in concrete details. Specific details about the portfolio will be provided in the Google Drive folder.


Additional Policies

A complete list of campus policies governing IUPUI courses may be found online at: Selected policies are highlighted below.

Academic Integrity
Each student in this course is expected to adhere to the IU Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct. Academic dishonesty is completely unacceptable and any persons involved in such conduct will be disciplined in accordance with university regulations and procedures.

Educational Accommodations
I strive to design my courses in ways that accommodate students with a diversity of learning needs and styles. If you have needs that I haven’t anticipated, please register with Adaptive Educational Services and notify me during the first week of classes about any approved accommodations.

If you require accommodation for religious observances, please notify me by the end of the second week of the semester using the Request for Course Accommodation Due to Religious Observance Form.

Administrative Withdrawal
It is expected that all students participate in all class discussions and conscientiously complete all required readings and deliverables. Because of the collaborative nature of the research enterprise, it is particularly essential that all students commit to and engage fully with the content and deliverables of this course. If a student is unable to attend, participate in, or complete an assignment on time, it is the student’s responsibility to inform the instructor and his or her teammates. If a student misses any of the following without contacting the instructor, the student may be administratively withdrawn from this course:

  • If the student fails to complete either the CITI Certification or COI Statement within 24 hours after the due date; or
  • If the student fails to attend 2 of the first 4 classes.

Administrative withdrawal may have academic, financial, and financial aid implications. Administrative withdrawal will take place after the full refund period, and a student who has been administratively withdrawn from a course is ineligible for a tuition refund. Contact the instructor with questions concerning administrative withdrawal.


Creative Commons License
This Introduction to Research in Informatics syllabus by Dr. Amy Voida is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

If you re-use and/or adapt this syllabus for use at your institution, in addition to providing attribution please consider dropping me an email and letting me know. This information is extraordinarily useful for tracking the broader impact of my curriculum development. Thanks!