Screening Exam Questions 2004


Imagine you have been just hired by the realtor "BestHousing in CA". This realtor wants to provide its clients with information about the neighborhoods where it sells houses. For example, they would like to be able to tell their clients the type of people who live in a neighborhood - income level, location of employment, etc. Moreover, they would also (if possible) like to be able to tell their clients how much street noise there is, how happy people are who live there, etc. At the moment, the realtor does not posses any of this information.

You were hired to develop a system that can systematically (maybe automatically?) collect, store, and provide neighborhood information to the realtor, who in turn would make it available to its clients.

a) Describe the steps you would follow to complete this system development project.

b) Briefly describe the key components (e.g., database, user interface, etc.) of the system.

c) Select one component from your list in part b) and describe it in some detail. Make sure you include assumptions you are making when detailing this component.


According to Robson (2002), social scientists use two basic classes of research design: fixed and flexible. To the extent that IS research to date has been social science, it has been based on these types. In fixed design, the researcher specifies all aspects of a study in advance, collects the data so specified (usually quantitative), and then analyzes them with statistical techniques. In flexible design, the researcher modifies the nature of the study as she/he gathers data, which are usually qualitative. By this dichotomy, fixed design comprises experimental, quasi-experimental, single-case experimental, and non-experimental (such as survey) forms, while flexible design includes case study, ethnography, grounded theory, and related approaches.

a) Compare and contrast the two research design approaches addressing such factors as purpose, relation to theory, role of research questions, methods and sampling strategies, and confidence in a study and its findings.

b) In your opinion, which type of research design, fixed or flexible, is better for the field of IS? Explain why.


Robson, C., Real World Research, 2nd Ed., Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2002.


This question has three parts. Answer questions a. and b. and either c.1 or c.2.

a) It is 1996 and a doctoral student named Sergey Brin is working out of his garage. He has just found the perfect search algorithm (which eventually would become Google). He has a dial-up modem connected to a local ISP. He wants to send the details of the algorithm to his partner Larry Page but the modem is acting up. In fact Sergey is unable to transmit. He calls the Telco but their trouble-shooter can’t figure out the problem either. Sergey (who loves networking) does some testing of his own. Using proper tools, he measures the Signal-to-Noise ratio on his garage line and finds it is almost zero. So he has his local service provider replace the telephone line. Now he gets a signal-to-noise ratio of 3162 (35 dB). Sergey knows this gives him the necessary capacity to transmit. Which famous theorem is Sergey using in his mind? How much capacity would he really get if his telephone line can transmit 300 Hz to 3300 Hz of bandwidth? Can you explain why he was unable to transmit? [Hint: log2 (3162) = 11.62]

b) The Internet was built on a design philosophy called "simple network and smart end-points". What are the pros and cons of such a design? Do you see forces today that may impact the performance of the Net?

c) Answer either question c.1 or question c.2.

1. What is the difference between FDMA, TDMA and CDMA in wireless communications?


2. What is a message digest? Why is it commonly used for digital signatures in public key infrastructures?



You have just become the project leader of a research team at Microsoft (they pay very well!) that is required to develop a search engine for PDAs. You need to research what the best method would be to display information returned by Microsoft's search engine. One method is to use summarization information (you may assume you have a good text summarizer that will work on the PDA platform), and another method is to visualize information (you may assume you have some way of assigning fitted images to text).

You will have to design a study to decide whether summarization or visualization will be the best method for Microsoft to use in building a commercially viable product. Outline which questions Microsoft would be interested in answering as a way of framing your research design. Then briefly describe the method you would use to carry out the research study.



The prevailing view of object-oriented software development is the one informed by the Unified Software Development Process (Jacobson et al, 1999). From this perspective, software development ought to be 1) use case driven, 2) architecture centric, and 3) iterative and incremental (pp. 5-8). The Unified Process viewpoint-in conjunction with the Unified Modeling Language-underlies many recent texts on software analysis and design (such as Dennis et al [2002]), and arguably has determined how most recent graduates of information science/computer science/information systems programs think about analysis and design. Notwithstanding, it is less than clear that practicing software developers uniformly or enthusiastically embrace the Unified Process viewpoint (Johnson et al, 1999; Singh and Kotze, 2003).

a) How does object-oriented software development work, according to the Unified Process viewpoint?

b) What do the central tenets of this viewpoint, enumerated above, mean?

c) For what types of software development is the Unified Process viewpoint most appropriate? For what types might it be less appropriate?

d) Name an important aspect of software development that is under-emphasized by this viewpoint.

e) Describe one current perspective on software development that stands as an alternative to the Unified Process viewpoint (not including outmoded approaches of the 1980’s and earlier, such as ‘structured development’)?

f) In what ways does this alternative differ from the Unified Process viewpoint?

g) What are its advantages and weaknesses relative to the Unified Process viewpoint?


Dennis, A., Wixom, B.H., and Tegarden, D. (2002) Systems Analysis and Design: An Object-Oriented Approach, New York: Wiley.

Jacobson, I., Booch, G., and Rumbaugh, J. (1999) The Unified Software Development Process, Boston: Addison-Wesley.

Johnson, R.A., Hardgrave, B.C., and Doke, E.R. (1999) An industry analysis of developer beliefs about object-oriented systems development, The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems, 30(1), pp.47-64.

Singh, S., and Kotze, P. (2003) An overview of systems design and development methodologies with regard to the involvement of users and other stakeholders, Proceedings of SAICSIT 2003, pp. 37-47.



The recent work by Nicholas Carr (i.e., IT Doesn’t Matter, Harvard Business Review, 2003) has challenged IT managers to make the case that IT can contribute to the competitive position of their organizations. What " academic" knowledge (in terms of recent research developments, findings, concepts, etc.) do you think is most valuable to IT managers who want to ensure value-added IT impact on organizational competitiveness? In your answer, provide some examples of academic IS research that does and does not meet your criteria with respect to value-added knowledge.