Craft an Effective Research Assignment

Whether a research paper, annotated bibliography, or something new and exploratory, research assignments are one of the keys to teaching students the practice of discovery. The elements that you emphasize in the design of the assignment and the rubric you use to grade it lead students to consider different skills that are essential to research and information fluency.

Your librarian is available to help you craft an assignment that delivers. For example, good research assignments:

  • Require students to choose quality resources and reflect on their use
  • Treat research as an ongoing, iterative process with purposeful steps
  • Invite students to explore and expand their understanding of the topic itself, and how information is used in the discipline

The six-part Framework for Information Literacy contains particular concepts that can be emphasized and prioritized to give an assignment a distinctive flavor.

Scholarship as Conversation

  • Students consider publishing or archiving research for use by other students and other researchers
  • Students critically evaluate scholarly articles to determine their significance
  • Students recognize the significance of disciplinary consensus

Information Creation as a Process

  • Students present their research to real or theoretical "audiences" that are not only the professor or their classmates
  • Students create artifacts like films, presentations, and other works beyond the traditional research paper
  • Students document the creation process and think of it in various stages

Information Has Value

  • Students understand the rationale for citations and use formats effectively
  • Students consider publishing their research and consider Creative Commons licenses and other copyright concerns
  • Students utilize interlibrary loan to fully explore the discipline

Research as Inquiry

  • Students work from evidence rather than assumptions, and develop theses in response to data and searching
  • Students conduct specific background investigations before joining deeper research conversations
  • Students clearly define research questions using a brainstorming and question creation process

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

  • Students examine why they choose their sources and whose voice they represent
  • Students use various kinds of sources and reflect on "peer review"
  • Students form opinions from sources instead of choosing sources to suit preconceived opinions

Searching as Strategic Exploration

  • Students document their source location process and analyze it for possible strengths and weaknesses
  • Students consult with librarians who may help them find resources they would not have considered
  • Students actively compare the value of the disciplinary resources they used in completing their assignment