While classroom faculty serve as experts in their discipline, librarians are information retrieval experts available to offer support to professors who are creating and revising research assignments.
The following guidelines include basic ideas to consider when preparing assignments in addition to tips for enhancing research assignments.
Prepare a clearly outlined assignment guide.
This ensures students all have the same info about assignment expectations.
It also means librarians and tutors can more readily assist students without constantly redirecting them back to you.
Tie the assignment to established course objectives and inform students of the assignment's purpose and how it relates to the objectives.
Citations: which style should they follow? If you don't have a preference, state that (and list what the options are -- students don't usually know more than one even exists yet, let alone which one makes sense for them to use!).
Appropriate sources: what do you consider scholarly? If students may use only database sources, does that include news and encylopedia articles as acceptable (since we have those in our databases, too)?
Consider student capabilities and resources when developing assignments.
Many students benefit from scaffolded deadlines that walk them through the research process.
E.g. first they submit a topic, then a narrowed topic and research question, then a written introduction to the topic, then an annotated bibliography, then a draft, and finally their final paper.
Allow "structured" freedom of choice in how to approach and deliver a research assignment.
Double-check access to specific databases or books before recommending them. Your liaison librarian can help you with this!
Make real-world connections.
Provide reality-based problem-solving activities that expand studentsí capacity for critical thinking.
Employ assignments that highlight connections within and between disciplines or to real-world applications.
Develop assignments that feature interpersonal skills essential in the workplace.
Introduce your students to their other resources.
Schedule a librarian-led instruction session to follow the assignment being distributed. We can introduce your students to the research process, from narrowing their topic and developing search terms to demonstrating relevant databases to documenting those sources ethically.