Designing Effective Research Assignments

Well-designed, course-related research assignments are an effective way to introduce students to the process of academic and professional research.

Consult your librarian before the assignment

We will be happy to work with you to design an appropriate assignment that will achieve your course goals/objectives. Consult the list of Subject Liaison Librarians to determine the most appropriate librarian to assist you. With at least a week to ten days' lead time, and a copy of your syllabus and the assignment, librarians can prepare library instruction lectures, workshops, and written materials geared specifically to your course and assignment.

Let us know

Sending an advance copy of the assignment and its due date to your Subject Liaison Librarian will ensure that we are ready to help your students at the Reference Desk when needed.

Be sure the library has the needed information

Few students really understand the process of finding and obtaining library materials. There are few experiences more frustrating than looking for what is unavailable, or has been checked out. If you would like your students to use specific books and articles, provide complete citations, including links if possible. Check Summon to make sure we have what you need, and use Course Reserves for heavily-used materials.

Teach research strategies

Include a list of steps involved in the research process, and create a series of assignments to be completed in stages. Contact your subject liaison librarian to request a library session, where a librarian will review strategies with the class and provide hands-on experience using appropriate print and online tools.

Avoid the mob scene

Requiring an entire class to use just one source (book, journal) is stressful for people and resources. Give students a variety of topics and sources in order to avoid competition for print resources, and break up assignments into sections to be completed in stages.

Plan scavenger hunts judiciously

Searching for obscure facts can be frustrating to students and can easily lead to plagiarism rather than teaching students useful research skills. If planning a library exercise, talk to your subject liaison librarian about designing one that will allow students to explore the scope and range of library resources.

Need some fresh ideas for assignments?

Here are a few links to get you started:

Effective Research Assignments (University of California-Berkeley Library) 
Ideas for Library/Information Assignments (University of Newfoundland Memorial Library) 
Alternative Research Assignments (San Diego State University Library) 
Ideas for Library Related Assignments (University of Puget Sound, Collins Memorial Library)

Adapted from the California Clearinghouse on Library Instruction, Southern Section publication, "Guidelines for Effective Library Assignments."