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Information Literacy @ UNH

Creating Effective Research Assignments

If you're requiring students to use library resources, consider the following as you design the assignment:

  • Assume minimal library knowledge. Students may equate technology skills with information literacy skills. They may not understand what is meant by "peer-reviewed," "primary source," or "journal article." They may be unaware that the library's resources are different in any way from what can be found on the Internet. (This is something we always emphasize in instruction classes.)
  • Be specific. Call databases, the library website, and other information sources by name: ProQuest, Library search box, Harvard Business Review, Statista, etc. We work to avoid vague statements such as "I was using the library database."
  • Have students explain their choice of resources. Creating menu of sources (two books, three articles, etc.) or a limit on resources, like "no websites," can be confusing to students. They may not differentiate between electronic sources on the library's website and those on the free Web, which may cut them off from useful information. Encouraging source choice can often be accomplished through a preliminary annotated bibliography. (We can help students learn how to better evaluate sources.)
  • Check availability of resources. If all students need access to the same book, please place it on reserve. A few of our databases have simultaneous user limits or require additional passwords. Entry-level research (using reference sources, for example) has changed significantly, and our collections are changing and improving all the time - if you suggest sources to students, make sure they are up-to-date with the libraries' holdings or are easily accessible elsewhere.

 

For more ideas, read these articles: 

"Assignments: Being Clear About What Matters" by Barbara Fister (in Inside Higher Ed)

"What Happens to Your Research Assignment at the Library?" by Dennis Isbell (available through the UNH Library in College Teaching)