Faculty Services: Research Assignments

Introduction to library services for faculty.

Tips for Designing Library Research Assignments

Establish Clear Expectations.

  • Set a minimum number of sources required for the research assignment.
  • Be specific in regard to source type (“Minimum 3 sources” still too vague).
  • Not every student has been introduced to library research. Library visits introduce resources to students new to library research while reinforcing the skills of students who attended previous library sessions.
  • Correlate the quality of sources with assessment and the assignment’s grade.
  • Communicate how research involves not only locating sources but evaluating and synthesizing information.
  • Review plagiarism policy and documentation guidelines with students.

Identify and Describe Appropriate Sources.

  • Require a variety of different types of sources.
  • Be flexible in regard to source format (e-book version instead of print version).
  • Explain and illustrate the different types of sources required (primary vs. secondary sources, scholarly journal articles/peer-reviewed articles, magazine articles, newspaper articles, visual media, government documents, websites, etc.).
  • Discuss what makes a source appropriate (Currency, Reliability/Relevance, Authority/Audience, Purpose/Point of View).
  • Define acceptable internet sources and point out why certain sources, such as Wikipedia or Ask.com, may not be appropriate for academic work. Many credible sources are available online, from electronic research databases to government websites.
  • Provide a starting point, such as the library website, library research guide, a specific database, or a bibliography.
  • Ask students to justify why they have chosen a specific source and how they intend to use it in their assignment.

Check Availability of Sources.

  • Assess the availability of appropriate materials for students.
  • Check availability of sources at the library and research databases.
  • Consider putting library items with limited availability on reserve.
  • Evaluate: Are quality sources readily available? Work with a librarian to identify avenues of research, availability, and credible sources, such as specific scholarly journal titles or research databases.


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