Sean Burns, PhD

Basic Gist

Welcome to my personal website. I am an Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky's College of Communication and Information, within the School of Information Science. I teach in the library science graduate program and the information, communication, technology undergraduate and graduate programs. My research topics broadly cover areas in scholarly communication, information science, and academic libraries. See below for more details.


Current Projects

I am 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 ungrading. Ungrading is the idea that we can place less emphasis on grades by placing more emphasis on other forms of feedback. I practice ungrading in different ways, which is determined whether the course is a graduate or undergraduate course, and whether the course is discussion or project based. Two colleagues of mine are investigating two of my courses, both graduate, but one discussion based and the other project based. This is an ongoing research project.

I'm concluding a research project on journal article titles. More details later.

Research Themes

The curriculum vitae serves as a valuable tool for recording a scholar's accomplishments. However, it may lack the some necessary context. To address this, I have categorized my publications by theme. These themes encompass bias in peer review, health information retrieval, reference librarianship, misinformation, tacit knowledge in conjunction with open science, the historical development 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 wrote several programs to help introduce my undergraduate and graduate 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 have written four books tailored to courses within my program, drawing inspiration from lectures and demonstrations I developed for these classes. These books cover Linux Systems Administration, Electronic Resource Management, Systems Librarianship, and Personal Knowledge Management (PKM). I make them publicly available for others to use and build upon.

I view these works as living documents, subject to ongoing revisions to improve clarity and reflect new knowledge and technological developments. This is particularly true during the periods leading up to and during the courses when new content is integrated.


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

ICT 201: Personal Knowledge Management
Undergraduate course on managing personal information and knowledge work flows. Lectures and other materials for this course are on GitHub: Personal Knowledge Management.
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, Git. 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.
LIS 690: Systems Librarianship
Graduate course on systems librarianship. Students learn to use the Linux command line, evaluate system logs, create a basic integrated library system from scratch, and install and administer several software programs including WordPress, Omeka, and Koha ILS. This is currently a special topics course, but it will eventually be added as an elective. Lectures and other materials for this course are on GitHub: Systems Librarianship.

Past Courses

I developed but am no longer actively teaching the following course:

LIS/ICT 658: Knowledge Management
Graduate course on organizational knowledge management with some emphasis on disaster and risk management and communication.