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Creating Effective Library Research Assignments: Gumberg Library

This guide will help faculty create library research assignments that use library resources and student critical thinking skills appropriately.
According to research done by Head (2007), students struggle with the following aspects of academic research: 
Professor did not provide enough context/information (85%).
•Don’t understand expectations of college-level research (73%).
•Different expectations for different instructors (67%).
•Information overload (60%).
•Difficulty narrowing topics (59%).

Head, Alison J. “Beyond Google: How Do Students Conduct Academic Research?” First Monday,  vol 12, no. 8, 2007, n.  pag. 

Skills Needed for Academic Research

chart with skills

Qualities of Effective Research Assignments

provide context encourage source engagement emphasize process and foster academic integrity



Don’t assume your students are expert researchers

Clarify your assignment prompt 

Don’t make unreasonable source format requirements

Focus on content of sources rather than format 

Don’t assign unrelated library activities (scavenger hunts)

Make research and use of sources part of the grade 

Don’t focus on a single library resource 

Confirm that the library can support the project

Don’t give an “untested” assignment

Ask your colleagues to review your assignments


Who is responsible for teaching students research skills?
Library Faculty: 1 votes (25%)
Other Faculty: 0 votes (0%)
Both: 3 votes (75%)
Total Votes: 4


If you would like a librarian to visit your class to discuss any aspect of the research process, make your request using this Instruction Request Form

How to Scaffold Research Assignments
•Identify the learning outcomes required for completing your research assignments
•Create low-stake opportunities for students to practice skills
•Provide feedback  
Scaffolding Assignment Examples: 
•Practice evaluating articles with the criteria important to the discipline / assignment
•Reading reflections 


If your assignment requires students to use a particular, single resource that is not a textbook, consider placing the source on Reserve.

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Amanda Clossen