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Information Literacy Guide: Create Research Assignments

A guide to support faculty in incorporating General Education Learning Goal #4 into the curriculum.

Create Effective Research Assignments

Why Research Assignments?

  • ·         Engages students with course content
  • ·         Provides opportunities to use research tools, concepts, and techniques
  • ·         Provides collaborative and active learning opportunities
  • ·         Supports information literacy General Education learning goal

To create an effective research assignment:



·         Design and test the assignments. 

o   Try doing the assignment yourself.  Were you able to complete it using library resources?  Were there areas in which the library came up short?

·         Allow students plenty of time to complete assignments.

·         Make sure the library has the materials your students need to complete their research.

·         Work with library liaisons to fill any gaps in the collection.

·         Place items on reserve if students are working on the same or similar topics (allow 48 hours for processing of reserve materials).


Be Clear:

·         Set objectives for research skills to be acquired and make them clear to the students.

·         Provide clear written directions for assignments.  Consider sharing with the library.

·         Use correct terminology.  Define any questionable or vague terms.

·         Be clear about documentation style, number and type of sources required, and any restrictions (such as no Wikipedia)


Avoid These Pitfalls:

·         Assuming Students Know the Basics

o    Don’t assume students know how to do academic research on the Internet or in the Library.

o    Subject-specific research may require specialized research tools.

·         Requiring Resources that are Unavailable

o   Be familiar with the library collection and resources in your discipline and contact your liaison to help fill any gaps in the collection or to prepare for an assignment. 

·         The Whole Class Working on the Same Assignment

o   Select different topics so students don’t exhaust materials available at the library.  Barring that, consider placing some materials on reserve so all students will get a chance to look at them. 

·         Vague Topics

·         Scavenger Hunts – locating specific facts or trivia doesn’t teach replicative research skills.

How can the library help me?

·         Library Instruction

o   Can help introduce students to information sources and research strategies or reinforce those tools and techniques.

·         Liaisons/Collaboration

o   Can help with assignment planning and design and determining the feasibility of whether an assignment can be completed at the library.

o   Can help inform you about changes in the library collection and new acquisitions.

o   Can help order materials in your discipline to facilitate assignment planning and completion.

o   Can serve as a point of assistance for students, in person or embedded into an on-site, hybrid, or online course via Blackboard. 

·         Brochures and Handouts

o   Can provide a list of resources to assist students and a starting place for research and citation.




Suggestions for assignments that incorporate information literacy and provide alternatives to the research paper.

See additional suggestions under Effective Assignments Links.

Other Guides for Faculty