Designing Effective Library Research Assignments
Identify the learning objectives for the assignment so that students know what to do and why.
Design the Assignment
Consider student capabilities and resources when developing assignments. Assume minimal library knowledge on the part of your students. Even after attending library instruction sessions for INST classes, your students have only just begun to scratch the surface of the research experience. Transfer students or new graduate students may have had no experience in the Otterbein library.
Allow students to choose from a broad range of topics. This helps to prevent large numbers of students from needing to use the same information sources at the same time. Be aware if your information source is limited.
Incorporate critical thinking.
Avoid "Scavenger Hunt" assignments that ask students to locate random facts. This type of assignment can be very frustrating to students. Scavenger hunts typically don't require learners to evaluate the source or information or use the information for any purpose. They are less instructive than assignments that require problem solving and analysis.
Assignments that require students to evaluate, analyze, compare, question, or synthesize the information they find make for a better learning experience. They also help build skills that are transferable to other research projects.
Create assignments with components due throughout the quarter. This allows you the opportunity to monitor student progress and offer feedback. It also prevents students from leaving their assignment to the last minute when panic may cause some students to take shortcuts that could result in plagiarism.
Repeat skills learned in earlier assignments to reinforce learning.
Test the Assignment
Do the assignment yourself before giving it to students in order to make sure your objectives are met, resources are correctly listed, deadlines are adequate, and that appropriate library resources are available. Check the online catalog (OPAL) to verify library holdings. This mandate holds true every time you assign it. Things change quickly in the information age, so be sure to check any specific instructions or sources you give to students. If you expect some sources to be heavily used, request that they be placed on Reserve by calling 823-1215.
Show the assignment to your library liaison. Librarians can provide suggestions as to what sources to use and can alert you to new sources that have become available. Sending a copy of your assignment to the your liaison librarian will also enable the library staff to prepare in advance, and to better assist your students.
Ask students for feedback on the assignment, and be open to their comments and suggestions.
Specify Requirements and Sources
Indicate required number of sources. Recommended: minimum with no set maximum.
Require a variety of sources, but be FLEXIBLE. Not all topics, particularly those chosen by students themselves, are covered in every type of resource.
Clearly define your terms. Make sure requirements are clear in your mind and understood by students.
Distinguish between different types of sources. Many students do not understand the differences.
Offer Library Instruction When Needed
Consider scheduling a library instruction session. Many students have never used an academic library, and those who have, often lack the skills needed to use the library effectively. Participation in library instruction sessions should not be optional. Make attendance mandatory and plan on attending with your class. This indicates to students that you consider library skills important.
When scheduling a library instruction session, please allow two weeks notice. Contact your liaison librarian for more information.
Make sure your students know where to go for help. Encourage students to ask library staff for assistance. Alert students to services such as: " Chat with a librarian"; Contact a ibrarian or staff member for an appointment for in-depth reference assistance, for instruction in how to effectively search the library's research databases, or for other circulation and room reservation support.
Provide More Information On Copyright And How to Avoid Plagiarism
Make sure students know how to cite the information they find, including information from the Internet. Many students mistakenly believe that information on the Internet is free and does not require acknowledgment.
List the style manual that you want your students to use for citing their sources.
Evaluate Information Literacy Skills
Evaluate the research process and information literacy skills as well as the end product.
For ideas and methods, see the following: