Villanova University

Department of Computing Sciences


Search Technologies and Personal Information Management

Professor:  Dr. Lillian N. Cassel

Semester: Fall 2008

Office:  161 Mendel
Hours:  (By Chat in Blackboard or in person): Monday and Thursday 4 - 6pm.  Other times by appointment or if you drop by and I am free.

Course Description:  This is a somewhat split topic, but not an unreasonable combination.  We do a lot of searching.  An immense amount of information is available to us.  We find it and then we have to do something with it.  This special topic course will address both sides of the information challenge.

A 2005 Workshop on Personal Information Management summarized the topic thus:
“Personal information management or PIM is attracting increasing attention as an area of study. In the ideal world, we have the right information at the right time, in the right place, in the right form, and of sufficient completeness and quality to perform the current activity. Tools and technologies help so that we spend less time with burdensome and error prone actions of information management (such as filing). We then have more time to make creative, intelligent use of the information at hand in order to get things done.”

We will look at a variety of topics including search engine performance, information retrieval, database management, artificial intelligence and user-interface issues.  Certainly, we will talk about digital libraries. We will explore a variety of tools and get to understand the issues involved.  Our goal will be an understanding of what the deluge of available information means to us and how we can harness it for our purposes and how we can advance the state of the art in the control of information for our personal use.

The class is open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students in computing related disciplines.  Students from other disciplines should talk to the instructor before enrolling.

Course Goals and Objectives:

A solid familiarity with search, both as a searcher and as an implementer
* Describe basic characteristics of an Information Retrieval system
* Describe how information is discovered by search engines
* Demonstrate the ability to formulate effective search strategies using existing web resources
* Review available search packages
* Implement and demonstrate a search tool such as Lucene

Awareness of Information Sources for individuals and small groups
* List the sources of information overload. 
* List the types of information that must be organized and managed.
* Catalog our own information management challenges

Recognition of the role of Digital Libraries in Information Management
* Describe and compare general purpose digital libraries such as DSpace, Greenstone, Fedora
* Compare digital libraries with special purpose databases (Readerware, for example)

Familiarity with the current state of Personal Information Management
* Review and discuss modern approaches to PIM
* Select tools, configure, and review their effectiveness

Recognize and Protect Intellectual Property
* Describe the essential elements of rights management in shared information

Information about the course management:

 Introduction :
Every indication is that the best way to learn is to be actively involved in discovery, in creating your own knowledge. As a result, your active participation is a fundamental requirement of this course. Each class session will involve some discussion. You will make at least one presentation in front of the class. If that idea makes you somewhat uncomfortable, take that as a sign that you need to overcome that feeling and become confident in your ability to speak to a group and to present your work and your ideas.

Additional information :
Attendance: I assume that every student will attend every class unless I have heard previously that you have a reason for missing class. In all cases, you are responsible to discover what has been done in the class you miss. Just keeping up with class by hearing about happenings from other students is not sufficient, however. Your input into our discussions is important. Your absence not only hurts you; it deprives the rest of the class of the valuable contributions you would have made. A part of the grade is reserved for active participation in every class session.

Some of your work will be submitted in written form. The quality of the writing will be considered in grading your work. Resources are available to help with writing well, and I will be glad to give you some asistance. I do recognize that for many people in this class, English is not your first language. I will consider that in evaluating your work. However, I will expect you to make a conscientious effort to write clearly and to present your ideas in a well-organized and understandable form. Villanova has a writing center where any student can obtain assistance with writing. I will be happy to lend assistance also. Learning to express yourself clearly will serve you well in future endeavors.

Academic Integrity:
Academic Integrity is a very serious matter at Villanova and will be strictly enforced in this class.  You will find the resources you need to be sure you understand the issues at the Academic Integrity link on our department web page.  We will review the university site at the first class and you will be required to read the available material and discuss it at the second class.  If you ever have any question about what is permissable in terms of your assignments and your class responsibilities, ask about it.  Do not make any assumptions that may turn out to be wrong.  If you made a bad judgment, it may have very serious consequences. 

Grading Policy

Grades will be based on successful and timely completion of assignments and projects, and on active participation in class and in online discussions.  We will have a brief quiz every second week or so to make sure that we are achieving our objectives.  All quizzes will be cumulative, with about half the questions being new and about half referring to previous weeks' work.  Questions will be repeated and new questions will be added.  By the time we get to the end of the semester, you should not have to worry about remembering the early material to do a good final exam.   You will have been building up to that all semester long. 

A graduate student who does what is expected in assignments receives a grade of B. Better work receives better grades. An A is quite possible, but does require exceptional work, not just meeting requirements.  The undergraduates taking this class will have somewhat lower expectations.  However, a grade of B requires better than minimal work and a grade of A requires something much better than just what is expected. 

Bi-weekly quizzes (lowest score dropped)
Presentations, responders of readings
Implementations, Configurations

Attendance and active participation
Final examination
Semester Project


Semester Project

You will do a semester project that will involve an in-depth investigation of some aspect of search technology or personal information management.  All projectw will be done in groups of 2 or 3.  A semester project is expected to take the whole semester to complete successfully.  If you leave it to the last week or two, you will not succeed in doing an acceptable project.  We will have periodic status checks on project work.  Be prepared to describe your work at any time in class. Here are a few ideas to get you started on choosing a project:
If you do a report: The grade for your report will depend, in part, on the thoroughness of your review of what is available.  If you do a wonderful job of comparing two tools when there are dozens available, you will limit the possible grade. If your literature review does not cover the available literature very well, your grade will be limited even if you do a wonderful job of comparing and summarizing what you do review.

If you do a programming project:  You must present your idea in enough detail for us to evaluate the effort and the likely significance of the result.  This is partly to make sure you do not take on more than you can reasonably do in one semester and partly to make sure your choice is suitable for this course. 

Evaluation:  All projects will be presented to the class.  The class members will provide feedback during progress reports and also at the final presentation.  Class member evaluation will be a factor in the final grade assigned. 

Course Web Presence

There are advantages and disadvantages to the Blackboard course management system used at Villanova.  I prefer that my materials be open and accessible, so I will use this public web site.  We will use the Blackboard site from time to time to take advantage of tools that are there.  Be sure to log in to the course site and become familiar with its use.

Link to Schedule page