Socio-technical Data Analytics

SODA_image.jpg?itok=hewpr8ixWhat is Socio-technical Data Analytics?
Massive changes in how data are created, disseminated, and used have increased the role that information plays in industry, science, scholarship, government, and our every-day lives. Socio-technical data analytics combines both the technical (databases, social networking, data mining, and text mining) and social (economic, ethical, policy, and political) aspects of data analytics. The term “socio-technical” reflects the complex interplay between the decisions made during the collection, curation, and transformation steps in the information lifecycle, and their impact on the analytical methods that should be employed.

What is the Socio-technical Data Analytics specialization?
The SODA specialization was specifically designed to provide students with the theoretical foundations and hands-on experience necessary to fill the shortage of data management and analytic experts that has been estimated at 1.5 million in the U.S. alone. The program ensures that students understand the entire information lifecycle from the initial data creation, dissemination, analysis, use, reuse, and new data collection. Students who complete the program will understand the strengths and limitations of analytical methods, which is critical for both master's students as they fill immediate roles as information professionals, and doctoral students as they develop new methods to mitigate such limitations.

What courses will I take?
The SODA specialization is a collection of 6 graduate level courses (22-30 credit hours) that together uniquely prepare students to manage and analyze data. All students will take the following 3 courses (12 credit hours):

LIS452 Foundations of Information Processing in LIS
LIS590AG Evidence-based Discovery (new course offered in Fall 2013)*
LIS590AD Foundations of Socio-technical Data Analytics (new course offered in Spring 2013)

All students must also complete at least one advanced technology (4 credit hours) and one advanced analytics course (4 credit hours).

Example technology development courses:

LIS490 Introduction to Databases
LIS560 Digital Libraries
LIS590II Interfaces to Information Systems
LIS590RPE Rapid Prototyping
CS427 Software Engineering
CS467 Social Visualization
CS565 Human Computer Interaction

Example advanced analytical methods courses:

LIS590DT Data mining applications
LIS590NA Network Analysis
LIS590MT Infometrics
LIS590TM Text Mining

The course level instruction culminates with a hands-on practicum or project where students work closely with faculty and industry partners to obtain first-hand experience with complex socio-technical data ecologies. Faculty and industry partners currently affiliated with SODA have expertise in agriculture, public health, and the environment. The actual course number depends on the degree program. Nondegree and students enrolled in the Master of Science degree program must complete either a practicum (LIS591) or thesis research (LIS599):

LIS591 Practicum: Socio-technical Data Analytics Project (2 units)
LIS599 Thesis Research (Master's thesis, 8 units)

Students enrolled in the CAS program demonstrate their understanding in their final project (LIS593):

LIS593 CAS Project: Socio-technical Data Analytics Project (4-8 units)

Students enrolled in the PhD program demonstrate their SODA understanding in either an independent study (LIS592) or as part of their doctoral thesis research (LIS599):

LIS592 Independent Study (4 credit hours)
LIS599 Thesis Research (at least 4 credit hours in SODA, and a total of 32 credit hours required for the entire PhD dissertation)

Other strongly recommended courses (at any level):

LIS453 Systems Analysis and Management
LIS456 Information Storage and Retrieval

Other relevant courses:

LIS410 Text Information Systems
LIS490GI Geographic Information Systems
LIS560 Information Modeling
LIS586 Digital Preservation
LIS531 Foundations of Data Curation
LIS590DH Digital Humanities
LIS590DM Document Modeling
LIS590CW Computer-supported Cooperative Work
LIS590SC Social Computing
LIS590UMI Understanding Multimedia Information
LIS590OD Ontology Development

Note that the MS and PhD have additional required courses which can be completed online (MS, PhD).

Who teaches the SODA courses?
GSLIS SODA faculty conduct research on how to design, develop, and evaluate new technologies in order to better understand the dynamic interplay between people, information, and technology. The SODA educational program mirrors their research effort and ensures that the current research is embedded into the curricula. More information about faculty research projects can be found online (

Faculty currently affiliated with SODA include Drs. Catherine Blake, Jana Diesner, Stephen Downie, David Dubin, Miles Efron, Jon Gant, Brant Houston, Jerome McDonough, Vetle Torvik, and Michael Twidale. Their research interests include data analytics, information retrieval, knowledge discovery, information and communication technologies (ICTs), text and data mining, bibliometrics, natural language processing, social network analysis, and knowledge discovery and how such methods can be applied in the sciences, humanities, government, and society.

What funding opportunities are available?
Assistantships at both the master's and doctoral level are available through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Awards are made to outstanding students who apply to the program. SODA faculty also work on grants funded by the National Science Foundation, Mellon, McCormick and Sloan Foundations, the National endowment for the Humanities, and Google, which may include student support (see

What career paths might the SODA program provide?
At the MS level the SODA program prepares students for emerging leadership roles in academe, industry and government. At the doctoral level SODA prepares independent researchers who engage with important and challenging information problems.

Why study at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS)?
GSLIS is a professional school that has been training leaders in information and library science for more than a century and has been consistently ranked #1 by the U.S. News and World Report. The SODA specialization is situated within the Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship (CIRSS), which also houses the first LIS Data Curation Specialization and runs weekly eResearch Roundtable and CIRSS seminars.

Are the courses available via LEEP?

How do I find out more?

  • General questions about the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) and questions about admissions should be directed to gslis [at] illinois [dot] edu or 1(800) 982-0914.
  • Questions about the SODA education program can be directed to Craig Evans (csevans2 [at] illinois [dot] edu).
  • For information about related research activities, visit

*The Evidence-based Discovery course requirement is waived for students intending to graduate by Summer 2013.

How do I apply?

Please see the Admissions section of our website for specific application requirements, deadlines, and forms for each program.

Declaration Form

Currently enrolled GSLIS students wishing to complete the specialization must submit an online declaration form. Upon successful completion of the required courses, a letter of acknowledgment will be mailed to you.