L548: Computer Programming for
Information Management

School of Library and Information Science
Indiana University
Fall 2001

Instructor: Uta Priss
Email: upriss@indiana.edu
Office: 029 SLIS
Phone: 812-855-2793
Office hours: Monday 3.00 - 4.00 or by appointment

This syllabus is electronically available at http://php.indiana.edu/~upriss/l548/548-Fa01-syllabus.html

Course Syllabus

Some class-related links:

Student projects
Final exam Possible solution to question 1 of the exam


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. Ignore the deadlines on that form. 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 team project. The results of the projects will be presented during the last class session.

Computer Lab

The lab session is taught in LI503 (a PC lab). All students must create an account on one of the IU Unix computers where Perl is installed, such as Steel or Nations at least 24 hours before the first lab session.


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 mailing list 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.). Students are required to maintain backup copies of their work so that they will not loose their work due to computer failures.

Class contribution and mailing list 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 will work on their projects in a team of 3-4 members. The teams must be formed before the third 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:

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 3/4, 2001). Parts of the projects (and its documentation) will be handed in as assignments during the semester (see the Class Schedule). 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 70 points will be given for the project. Each of the four assignments is worth 10 points, the presentation is worth 10 points; and 20 points will be given for the project as a whole when it is finished.

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 26 and will be due on December 10, 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.

Week 1. Programming basics - Aug 27

Topics: Introduction to information processing tasks; simple Perl programs; scalar variables
  1. Lab Exercises Answers (The links for the answers will be enabled each week after the second lab.)

Week 2. Operators and if statements - Sep 3

Topics: operators, if statements and debugging
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. Find partners for your team project and start developing 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 3. Logical expressions - Sep 10

Topics: Logical "and", "or", and "not", truth tables
  1. Lab Exercises Answers

Week 4. Program design and control structures - Sep 17

Topics: Program design; flowcharts; control structures
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Sep 24: Email the name of your project and a short description to the discussion list.
    Draw flowcharts for components of your information processing tool and hand them in.

Week 5. Arrays, Hashs and File handling - Sep 24

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

Week 6. CGI I - Oct 1

Topics: HTML forms and how to process them with CGI
  1. Lab Exercises Answers

Week 7. Regular expressions I - Oct 8

Topics: Regular expressions
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Oct 15: Create forms for your project and email the URL of the form page (or the start page of your project if they are different) to upriss@indiana.edu.

Week 8. Regular expressions II - Oct 15

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

Week 9. Programming in the large - Oct 22

Topics: Functions, modular program design, local and global variables
  1. Lab Exercises Answers

Week 10. CGI II - Oct 29

Topics: Searching web pages on-line; security
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Nov 5: Write
    1) the main (sub)routine of your project and
    2) a subroutine that processes the form input for your project in a secure manner. Print the source code of these two routines and hand it in.

Note: there is no class on November 5.

Week 11. CGI III - Nov 12

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

Week 12. A Perl networking client - Nov 19

Topics: Retrieving documents from the web via Perl
  1. Lab Exercises Answers
  2. To be handed in by Nov 26: Create a three page user manual for your project. You should add these pages to your website. Print the pages and hand them in.

Week 13 - Lecture. The object oriented paradigm - Nov 26

Topics: Objects, classes, methods

  1. Exercises
  2. ( Here is an optional reading on object-oriented Perl. Follow the links: Object-oriented programming, Objects, ..., Using Modules on that page.)
Final exam is handed out

Week 14. - Conclusion and Project Presentations - Dec 3/4

Project presentations: Dec 3/4 (labs)

Final exam is due: Dec 10