Designing Effective Research Assignments

by Leslie Christianson, Public Services Librarian

One aspect of information literacy is search. Librarians are available to assist faculty and students in discovering the resources and tools available at the library. Designing an effective research assignment is the first step in student success.

Here are some ideas:

  • Be specific: Let students know what is acceptable and/or required. Length, format for references (MLA, APA), and acceptable types of sources (books, scholarly articles, magazines, web). This gives the student and the librarian a starting point at the reference desk.
  • Provide students with resource lists to give them somewhere to start. Ask your library liaison for research guides.
  • Send a copy of the assignment to your library liaison. (Do you know who is your library liaison? Find out.)
  • Schedule a library instruction session. Librarians can introduce students to the process of research and the best tools for their discipline.
  • Allow for incremental and continual improvement. Have students choose a topic early in the semester and have them turn in a bibliography of their initial search. Review the list with the student and suggest ways to narrow or expand the search strategy.
  • Encourage students to set up an appointment with a librarian at any point in the research process. Librarian can help students brainstorm topics, refine the search process, and utilize cooperative search strategies to improve results.

Adapted from: Iona College: Information Literacy: Designing Effective IL Assignments.

Photo of sunset from LC

View from the Commons: “A Colorful Sky”

by Arwa Alibrahim

At the beginning of 2016, while looking through the Learning Commons windows at the colorful, beautiful sky of February, I stopped for a moment to think: What do I really need to be accomplished? What must I do to be satisfied?

Especially as an international student who left home and family behind on the other side of the earth–the “Middle East”–I asked myself is all that distance and longing for my people back home worth it? Then, I suddenly smiled as I see my dreams coming true.

Honestly, I am so happy, and perhaps one of the happiest people around at least. I can’t believe that I am now striving with one of my biggest dreams; studying abroad. Although I am achieving it a little late at thirty years old, I truly can’t suppress my good feeling and how proud I am to be here at Marywood and get the opportunity to have such an experiment. All I want to say right now is a few words:

Do not tell your dreams to those who are pessimistic…

If you have to tell somebody, tell those who can build them up with you, or at least to those who encourage you to do so…

Sometimes you really do not need anyone, you just need you…

Because you have the strongest power…

More significantly, no one understands you as you do… No one loves you as you do…

All you need is to believe in yourself, then, GO!


Arwa Alibrahim is an international student perusing her master degree in Higher Education Administration program at Marywood University. She enjoys reading, writing, and drawing. She originally has a scholarship from Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission. She expects to complete the degree in May 2017. One of her objective to study abroad is to learn a new educational systems to be part of the educational development in Saudi Arabia in the near future.