Course Outline

INF1240H: Research Methods  Fall 2012  
Prof. Sara Grimes and TA: Harrison Smith
Mondays 1pm - 3pm
Bissell 538

Course Description
This course introduces students to a number of research methods useful for academic and professional investigations of information practices, texts and technologies. By examining the applications, strengths and major criticisms of methodologies drawn from both the qualitative and quantitative traditions, this course permits an understanding of the various decisions and steps involved in crafting (and executing) a research methodology, as well as a critically informed assessment of published research.

The course offers an overview of the different approaches, considerations and challenges involved in social research. In addition to reviewing core human research methods such as interviews, ethnographies, surveys and experiments, we will explore methods used in critical analysis of texts and technologies (discourse/content/design analysis, historical case studies), with an emphasis on the digital (e.g. virtual worlds, videogames, and online ethnographies). We will also discuss mixed method approaches, case studies, participatory and user-centered research, as well as research involving minors.

Goals and Objectives 
The objectives of the course are:

  • To provide students with the tools and skills required to understand research terminology and assess published research; 
  • To identify the types of methods best suited for investigating different types of problems and questions;
  • To develop research questions that are based on and build upon a critical appraisal of existing research; 
  • To design a research proposal; and 
  • To begin initial preparations for embarking on a new research project.

The class will meet for two hours each week to engage in a seminar style session, which will include in-class discussions, group activities, and case studies. On their own time, students must complete weekly course readings and written assignments, as well as contribute to a collaborative research log.

There are no prerequisites, but this course is open to incoming students online.

Course Materials
Luker, K. (2010). Salsa dancing into the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.  (ISBN 9780674048218). Available for purchase at the UofT Bookstore.

Knight, P.T. (2002). Small-scale research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications (ISBN-10: 0761968628 / ISBN-13: 978-0761968627). Available for purchase at the UofT Bookstore.

Additional readings (both required and recommended) can be accessed via dedicated links provided on Blackboard.

Course materials and resources aimed at helping students with assignments and key concepts will be made available online, through Blackboard ( and through this course weblog. Students are responsible for keeping up to date with these online resources, and are expected to log into Blackboard during the first week of class to enroll for email notices. Please be sure to check Blackboard periodically for new materials, announcements, updates and other important information. Presentation slides will be made available on the course website at the start of lecture (not before).