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.


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