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Faculty Toolkit

Resources for faculty on information literacy, library instruction and other library services.

Research Assignment Alerts

Want to help your students succeed in their research assignments?  Upload your assignment here on Assignment Alert and your librarians will be better able to assist them with their research needs. 

Submissions may be made at any time, but two week's notice is preferable to ensure you and your students the highest level of service.

Creating Effective Research Assignments

  • The purpose of assignment is clearly stated.

  • For a paper, a clear thesis statement is required, and the sources used must contribute to the thesis.

  • Samples of good papers are shared so students get a clear idea of what is required.

  • The assignment makes clear the kinds of research materials that will be acceptable, and makes sure that students understand what terms such as peer-reviewed or scholarly mean. It may suggest particular types of tools (making sure that students have access to them), e.g. use PsycInfo to find a clinical study or use The Encyclopedia of Ethics in Credo for information on John Dewey.

  • The assignment includes some topic suggestions and advice on ways to focus a topic when you know little about it; e.g., read encyclopedia entries or review articles to build some basic knowledge. Students are encouraged to do some research before settling on a topic, which is approved by the professor.

  • Especially for higher level classes, if students are informed of relevant journals and important past and present researchers in this field, they will have more success in looking for good material. It is better, however, to avoid requiring students to restrict their sources to only certain titles.

  • Assignment encourages students to use the best content rather than requiring certain formats such as microfiche, print, items only available through interlibrary loan.

  • Students are directed to the many tools on the library website.

In Addition to a Paper

Assign a research log, turned in early in the project, containing ...

  • Statement of the topic
  • Search strategy
  • Preliminary bibliography, including how each item was found and whether the source is popular or scholarly
This log could be a prerequisite to approving the paper topic. Later, the student would refine their preliminary bibliography and explain why some resources were eliminated and others kept (evaluative criteria used).

 In addition to a list of works cited for a paper or presentation, ask students to include a short explanation of how each source was useful to them in creating their paper or presentation.

Given a topic that is much too broad to handle in a short paper, find several sources (magazine, newspaper, or journal articles, chapters in books or reference books) to assist in refining the focus. For example, refine the topic Ethics in Sports down to Drug use in Track and Field and further down to doping in the 2004 Olympics Track and Field events.  This teaches students how to narrow a topic as well as what types of sources they might find useful in doing so.(Adapted from Alternatives to Research Papers--UConn Library)

Alternatives to the Research Paper

Suggestions for Assignments (Gustavus) https://gustavus.edu/library/IMLS/assignmentsuggestions.html

   Scroll down to the bottom of the guide for a variety of assignments that Includes interpretive assignments, synthesis assignments, exploring discourses and quick and dirty assignments.