Sean Burns, PhD

Basic Gist

Welcome to my personal website. I work as as an associate professor in the School of Information Science at the University of Kentucky's College of Communication and Information. In this role, I teach in the library science graduate program and in the information, communication, and technology undergraduate and graduate programs.


I am presently working on three research projects. The first project is a study of tacit knowledge and open science. In particular, my thesis is that tacit knowing, Michael Polanyi's idea that we can know more than we can tell, challenges the idea that an open science can be fully open. If true, this has ramifications for what we can learn from science done more openly and for what can be replicated based on a more open science.

The second project is a study on document credibility. Here I am interested in what aspects of a document, in particular, news documents and articles, influence how people judge its credibility.

The third project is about article titles. More details later.

Research Themes

The curriculum vitae is a helpful device because it documents (hopefully) all the work that a scholar achieves. However, it falls short in contextualizing those achievements. In that vein, I have organized some of my publications by theme. These themes include bias in peer review, health information retrieval, reference librarianship and qualitative methodology, fake news, tacit knowledge and open science, history of automation, and electronic resources.

Visit my selected research page to learn more.

Plain Text Social Science

I enjoy a Plain Text Way To Do Plain Text Social Science.

I used the plain text research approach described at the link above to write a paper for an upcoming conference. It was fun to write, even though the paper was rejected (2022-05-24), and I describe the process on The Text. See the output: Ungrade to Learn.


Most of the coding I do is for analyzing data for my research projects. However, I built several programs to help introduce my students to the Linux command line. These are useful if you're running Linux or have access to a Linux machine and the Bash shell.

Instructions for downloading and using the scripts above are on the GitHub repo: Learn the Command Line.


Course Books

I wrote the following three books for courses in my program. These works are based on lectures and demonstrations that I had created for these courses. Although I no longer regularly teach Personal Knowledge Management (it's in good hands, though), I created the course and long desired to write a cohesive work for it.

I consider these works to be live documents. They will be regularly revised for clarity and updated, especially during the months before and while they are taught, to include new content.

Burns, C. S. (2022). Linux systems administration.

Burns, C. S. (2022). Personal knowledge management handbook.

Burns, C. S. (2022). Electronic resource management.

As of spring 2023, I'm teaching a new course on systems librarianship. I'm writing a book for this course, too. It will not be complete until later in the spring semester. However, I include it here for those that may want to follow along:

Burns, C. S. (2023). Systems librarianship.


I developed and regularly teach the following two undergraduate courses in my School's information, communication, and technology (ICT) program.

ICT 418: Linux Systems Administration
Undergraduate course covering systems administration using the Ubuntu Linux distribution. Topics include Bash scripting, managing users, installing, securing, and managing services such as MySQL, and more. Lectures and demo scripts for this course are on GitHub: Linux Systems Administration.
ICT 420: Semantic Web Development
Undergraduate course focused on HTML5, CSS3, JSON-LD, and Git as well as usability and accessibility. Main software tools: text editor, SFTP, GitHub. Demo and other material for this course are on GitHub Semantic Web Development.


I developed and regularly teach the following two graduate courses in my School's library science (LIS) and information, communication, and technology (ICT) programs.

LIS 617: Electronic Resource Management
Graduate course on managing electronic resources for libraries. Topics covered include the technologies and systems involved, legal issues such as managing copyright, contract negotiation, and more. Lectures and other material for this course are on GitHub: Electronic Resource Management.

As of Spring 2023, I will be teaching a new course on system's librarianship, which means someone else will take over the knowledge management course that I have taught since spring 2014.

LIS/ICT 658: Knowledge Management
Graduate course on organizational knowledge management with some emphasis on disaster and risk management and communication. Although this is an online course, students are central in selecting specific readings.

I developed and regularly taught the following undergraduate course, but now teach it mainly when I take on summer teaching.

ICT 201: Personal Knowledge Management
Undergraduate course on managing personal information and knowledge work flows. I would share my lectures and resources for this course, but I'm working on a major revision and will wait until that revision is complete. Lectures and other materials for this course are on GitHub: Personal Knowledge Management.