Southern & Dobson
According to Project Information Literacy, an ongoing large-scale national research project, research findings conclude, “For over three-fourths (84%) of the students surveyed, the most difficult step of the course-related research process was getting started.” A well-designed handout for research assignments can help address this prevalent student need and more! See more findings below.
Tips for Designing Effective Research Assignments
Here are some recommended tips and strategies for creating effective research assignments that promote healthy information seeking behaviors and student success:
- Provide specific assignment details: Students struggle with ambiguity and appreciate details - lots of details. Avoid instructor bias and set expectations with a detailed assignment rubric. Be as specific as possible with your assignment details including number of sources, types of sources, recommended resources (library databases, reference works, etc.), citation style (MLA, APA, other), and project length (number of pages, slides, etc.). Provide an example of an exemplary completed research project that students can model.
- Spice it up and parse it out: Traditional term papers can be overwhelming. Instead, assign brief, less complex options like annotated bibliographies, article summaries, scholarly article analysis, discussions, and presentations. Have students experiment with technology and online tools to create infographics, film clips, podcasts, eportfolios, websites, blogs, etc. Scaffold assignments with timelines and deadlines to avoid the last minute crunch.
- Integrate the library: Promote healthy information seeking behaviors through library instructional support in your course and your research assignments. Schedule library instruction (virtual or face to face); incorporate library instructional tools and resources into your course (Canvas modules, research guides, videos, and tutorials); consider an embedded partnership with your library liaison; provide updated library hours and contact information; outline options for library help including 24/7 Ask a Librarian chat, virtual research appointments, and email.
- List support services: Avoid student stumbling blocks and provide a comprehensive list of support services for your students including tech help, tutoring, and the writing center. Provide clear options on how your students can find you in person, and virtually (online office hours, email, phone, etc.)
Effective Research Assignment Checklist
Promote healthy information seeking behaviours in your students! Use this detailed checklist to help create new research assignments or evaluate your current research assignments:
Results from Project Information Literacy showed that the majority of sample handouts for research assignments did not adequately guide students to finding and using information. Some specific findings include:
- “Six in 10 handouts recommended students consult the library shelves - place based source - more than scholarly research databases, the library catalog, the Web, or, for that matter, any other resource.”
- “Only 13% of the handouts suggested consulting a librarian for assistance with research.”
- “Few of the handouts (14%) that directed students to use the library’s online scholarly research databases…specified which database to use by vendor or file name from the hundreds that tend to be available.”
- “Details about plagiarism, if mentioned at all, were scant and tended to emphasize the disciplinary recourse instructors would take against students who were caught in acts of academic dishonesty.”