L548: Computer Programming for
Information Management

School of Library and Information Science
Indiana University
Fall 2000

Instructor: Uta Priss
Email: upriss@indiana.edu
Office: 029 SLIS
Phone: 812-855-2793
Office hours: Wednesday 2.30 - 3.30 or by appointment

This syllabus is electronically available at http://php.indiana.edu/~upriss/l548/548-Fa00-syllabus.html

Course Syllabus

Some class-related links:

Final exam
Student projects


This course introduces basic skills for programming and manipulation of text-based information systems. Information management is a major task for librarians and information professionals who are asked to extract information from sources on the WWW, design interactive text-based web interfaces to information systems, utilize text that is stored or is supposed to be stored in a markup format or preprocess information for storage in databases. This course teaches computer-based approaches to these tasks.

Currently the class is taught using Perl/CGI. Perl provides a good introduction to general programming concepts. These concepts include basic programming structures, such as control structures, file handling and program design strategies. But they also include more advanced topics, such as networking, text-based user interfaces, and basic retrieval concepts. Perl allows rapid prototyping which is appropriate for applications in a fast changing environment such as the WWW. Furthermore, Perl is very suited for search engines, parsers and mark-up languages. Students will develop a small information systems application as a project for this class. The concepts are therefore not taught abstractly but as hands-on experiences with WWW applications.

Course Objectives

This course
  1. teaches basic programming concepts and structures.
  2. introduces basic information processing and management concepts.
  3. uses small scale but realistic examples of information management tasks.
  4. teaches the basics of Perl and Perl/CGI.
  5. provides an introduction to more advanced topics such as object oriented programming.


L401 (must be either completed in a prior semester or an approved waiver must be in the student's file).
For non-SLIS students: please, fill in the waiver form and send it to upriss@indiana.edu. Indicate on the form that you are not a SLIS student but need the form for L548.

Especially important for this class are: basic Unix skills, i.e. understanding of the Unix directory structure and ability to edit and save files on a Unix computer; ability to create HTML web forms.

Class Organization

The class is taught as a combination of lecture and lab sessions. The students will work on a semester project either as a team of two members or individually. The results of the projects will be presented during the last class session.

Computer Lab

The lab session is taught in GY226 (a Unix lab). All students must create an account on the Unix Nations cluster at least 24 hours before the first lab session. If students want to practise in the Unix lab during other times, they should first check the on-line availability schedule for the lab. (Select month and lab "GY226" on this page.)


There is no required textbook for this class. There are numerous web resources or books available that can be used as supplementary materials for this class. For students who have never used a programming language before,
* Elizabeth Castro's "Perl and Cgi for the World Wide Web: Visual Quickstart Guide", Addison-Wesley, 1998
is a good introduction. For students who already know other programming languages,
* Randal L. Schwartz & Tom Christiansen: Learning Perl, 2nd Edition, July 1997, O'Reilly
could serve as a more comprehensive resource.

Some on-line tutorials are Day 2 on this page or the Perl Tutorial. Additional resources can be found at www.perl.com and on a local IU resource page.


The grades are given according to the SLIS grading standards. Good work that meets the course expectations will be assigned a grade of B. To get a higher grade than B, the students must demonstrate above average comprehension of the course materials, knowledge and/or effort.

The final course grade will be computed for each student on the basis of grades assigned for the following:

Class contribution and listserv discussions 1/5
Project 2/5
Final exam 2/5

Each student is expected to complete all course work by the end of the term. A grade of incomplete (I) will be assigned only if exceptional circumstances warrant. Late work will be accepted only at the discretion of the instructor and in every case will be automatically downgraded by 1/3 grade (e.g., a B+ becomes a B, a B- becomes a C+, etc.).

Class contribution and listserv discussions

The class contribution grade will be calculated based on class attendance and contributions to class discussions and discussions on the majordomo distribution list (upriss_l548@indiana.edu). It is required that every student demonstrate respect for the ideas, opinions, and feelings of all other members of the class.

Projects: Teams and topics

Students can work on their projects either as a team of two members or individually. The teams must be formed during the first week of class. Each project will consist of developing an information processing or information management tool. The tool must have a CGI-based user interface.

Examples for projects are: a mail filtering system (allows users to extract mail messages from a standard Unix mail folder based on certain preferences), a search engine, an information extraction tool for webpages (allows to extract certain information from a set of webpages), an html or xml viewer (displays markup pages as text with certain formatting), a data preprocessing tool (prepares data for input into a database or formats the output from a database), a library access tool (formats user input for search in an electronic library catalog), an indexing tool (parses text and identifies important words based on frequencies). Other similar topics can be suggested by the students. Some of these topics require additional knowledge (such as databases or xml) and should only be chosen by students who have acquired such knowledge prior to this class. The students should discuss their choice of topic with the instructor.

Project presentation, assignments and final project report

The students will present their tools during the last lab session (December 5th or 6th, 2000). Parts of the projects will be handed in as assignments during the semester (see the Class Schedule). The final project report is due on December 5, 2000. It must contain information on the purpose, features and limits of the software and indicate possible future extensions and improvements. The source code of the tool should not be included in the documentation but it must be made available for evaluation by the instructor.

Grading of the projects

A total of up to 100 points will be given for the project. Each assignment is worth 10 points, the presentation is worth 10 points and 30 points will be given for the final project report and the project as a whole.

The project will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

Final Exam

The final exam will be a take-home exam consisting of several small information management tasks for which the students will write appropriate Perl scripts. The exam will be distributed at the conclusion of the class on November 28 and will be due on December 12, 12.00 pm (Noon). Team work is not allowed for the final exam.

A note on plagiarism

The students must clearly indicate if they use materials from other sources, such as textbooks or Internet webpages. Full citation information must be given for such sources. Academic and personal misconduct by students in this class are defined and dealt with according to the procedures in the Code of Student Ethics.

Class Schedule

Note: the topics given in this schedule are fixed but I may still make some modifications during the semester to the order of the topics and the precise content covered in each week. Exercise materials for the lab sessions will be added each week.

Week 1. Programming basics - Aug 29

Topics: Introduction to information processing tasks; simple Perl programs; scalar variables
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. Develop a plan for your information processing tool: what do you want to accomplish with the tool? Which components will your tool have? What are possible features and limits? Find a name for your software tool.

Week 2. Operators and if statements - Sept 5

Topics: operators, if statements and debugging
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Sept 12: Email the name of your project and a short description to the discussion list.

Week 3. Logical expressions - Sept 12

Topics: Logical "and", "or", and "not", truth tables
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. Optional reading: A Logic Tutorial

Week 4. Program design and control structures - Sept 19

Topics: Program design; flowcharts; control structures
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Sept 26: Draw flowcharts for components of your information processing tool.

Week 5. Arrays, Hashs and File handling - Sept 26

Topics: Arrays and hashs; file handling
  1. Lab Exercises Answers

Week 6. CGI I - Oct 3

Topics: HTML forms and how to process them with CGI
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Oct 10: Create forms for your project and email the URL of the forms to upriss@indiana.edu.

Week 7. Regular expressions I - Oct 10

Topics: Regular expressions
  1. Lab Exercises Answers

Week 8. Regular expressions II - Oct 17

Topics: Regular expressions; substitution, transliteration and split
  1. Lab Exercises Answers

Week 9. Programming in the large - Oct 24

Topics: Functions, modular program design, local and global variables
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Oct 31: Write the main (sub)routine of your project. Print the source code of your main routine and hand it in.

Week 10. A Perl networking client - Oct 31

Topics: Retrieving documents from the web via Perl
  1. Lab Exercises Answers

Week 11. CGI II - Nov 7

Topics: Searching web pages on-line; security
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Nov 14: Process the form input for your project in a secure manner. Print the source code of the subroutine that processes the form input and hand it in.

Week 12. CGI III - Nov 14

Topics: Environment variables, hidden text and cookies
  1. Lab Exercises Answers

Week 13. The object oriented paradigm I - Nov 21

Note: due to Thanksgiving and the fact that there is no Wednesday lab, we'll leave object-oriented programming for next week and instead cover some optional materials, such as hashs.

(Topics: Objects, classes, methods)

  1. Lab Exercises: Hashs Answers
  2. ( Here is an optional reading on object-oriented Perl. Follow the links: Object-oriented programming, Objects, ..., Using Modules on that page.)
  3. To be handed in by Nov 28: Write a two page user manual for your project. Print the manual and hand it in.

Week 14. The object oriented paradigm II - Nov 28

Topics: Class hierarchy, inheritance, polymorphism and encapsulation

  1. Lab Exercises
Final exam is handed out

Week 15. Outlook and Team presentations - Dec 5

Presentation of projects: Dec 5/6
Project report is due: Dec 5
Final exam is due: Dec 12