Tips for Effective Assignments
Understand the skill level of your students and recognize that they may not know how to perform the level of research you require. If this is the case, librarians are available to help. See our instruction services for options.
Always define your terms. For example, if you require peer-reviewed articles, tell your students what these are.
Don’t assign scavenger hunts. They are not effective in teaching students how to do research. In addition, students can easily cheat on these types of assignments.
If you assign your entire class research on the same narrow topic, the library may not have many resources on that topic. Instead, ask your student to choose and focus their own topics, which they often find the most difficult part of doing research.
Create assignments that are relevant to class content and will help students do the research needed for other class assignments. For example, assign an annotated bibliography leading up to a research paper.
Focus on content rather than format. For example, a lot of scholarly journals are now only available online through subscription databases.
Create assignments that require students to choose the best tools to use for their research problem. If you do give them a list of tools to use, make sure that they understand what these tools do and why they are effective for this research problem.
Avoid a run on a resource. Do not send all of your students to the same limited resource.
Before suggesting a resource, check with a librarian to be sure it is still available. There may also be new resources better suited to your assignment.
Create assignments that require students to evaluate the information they find.
Test your assignment before giving it to your students (or ask a librarian to test it).
Ask students for feedback about assignments in order to improve them for the next semester.
Give a copy of your assignment to the library reference desk so they can be prepared when students come in asking for help.