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Designing Research Assignments

The purpose of library research assignments is to develop skills in information competency (IC). IC skills are essential to developing mastery within all disciplines.

Consult with a librarian before finalizing the assignment

Any librarian can help you design an assignment to make use of appropriate resources to meet the assignment's objectives and help you develop grading criteria for research components. Contact the subject librarian for your area, or any librarian at the CCSF library closest to you. The librarian may suggest a class presentation to prepare students to use specific resources.

Assume minimal library research knowledge

Few students will know what's available to them or how to effectively search for information and evaluate what they find. Consider assigning an online library workshop which will prepare them for using OneSearch, web search tools, evaluating information, and proper citation format.

Be explicit and clear with assignment

Give students a clear idea in writing of what the assignment involves, suggesting types of sources to be used and not used. If specific titles are required, check with a librarian to ensure availability and correct bibliographic information.

Expect things to change

In the online environment, things change quickly, so it's important to verify the availability and location of desired materials such as articles, e-books, and websites. Use course reserves to enable students to obtain required books. In addition to library materials, personal copies and examples of tests or projects can be placed on reserve for your class.

Allow a variety of topics or resources

Provide students with a range of topics or resources to help distribute access across more materials. One literature professor gives his students a list of 20 American short stories to select from for writing a critique, rather than expecting all students to evaluate the same one or two stories. A history professor suggests a list of 10 professional history journals for students to choose from for an essay assignment.

Promote critical thinking

Design assignments that require students to evaluate information or integrate the results of their research, rather than use "scavenger hunt" assignments. 

Consider for example:

  1. Having students compare articles on the same topic from a popular magazine and a scholarly/professional journal.
  2. Evaluate the information retrieved from a web search for relevance, credibility, accuracy, or bias.

Emphasize respect for library materials

Ensure that students are aware that library materials and electronic resources are common goods and must be shared by many people.

Refer students to the library

Let students know that librarians are available and want to help them succeed with their assignments.  Librarians are available to assist students during open hours of the library as well as 24-7 online via online chat.  

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