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Research Assignment Tips for Faculty (BMC)

Research assignments that involve the selection, evaluation, and synthesis of sources require a level of information literacy your students may or may not already have. Here are some general suggestions to follow that will help students successfully complete research assignments in your courses that help develop their information literate abilities.

10 Tips for Successful Research Assignments

1.  Encourage students to consult with a librarian

  • Students should be reminded that librarians are available to coach them through the research process. Provide contact information for your subject librarian on the assignment handout and/or course Moodle page.

2.  Direct students towards a variety of library resources

  • Asking students to use a variety of sources in difference formats (e.g. books, articles, print, electronic) helps them develop their ability to identify, locate, access, evaluate, and integrate sources into their final product.

3.  Suggest specific databases or other library resources by name

  • The library subscribes to hundreds of quality academic databases, but students will often fall back on familiar tools and old habits unless required to try something new.

4.  Discuss what constitutes plagiarism

  • Students often don't understand what plagiarism is. Take time to define plagiarism for your students, show them how to correctly paraphrase and attribute words and ideas, and refer them to a librarian for citation help.

5. Review criteria for evaluating sources

  • There is growing evidence that students at all levels struggle with critically evaluating information. Reviewing the concept of authority in the context of your discipline can help. Contact a librarian for advice on designing lessons that teach this skill.

6.  Define research

  • Many undergraduates don't have a clear understanding of the research process. Defining research as it applies to the assignment or discipline gives students the situational context that they lack and need.

7.  Embed a Research Guide in Moodle or request one from your librarian

8.  Break the research assignment into manageable parts

  • To discourage procrastination, and to teach students the research process, break the assignment into manageable parts and provide feedback. Require that students turn in a topic proposal, an annotated bibliography, and/or a draft along the way to the final product.

9.  Explain how research will be evaluated

  • Be specific and open about how your assignments will be evaluated. Provide students with grading rubrics and weigh the assignment(s) according to importance of the desired outcomes.

10.  Collaborate with a librarian on designing your research assignment(s)

  • Librarians can help you design an assignment that meets the goals of your course and fosters critical thinking and information literacy. We can also provide recommendations on feasibility based on the availability of information sources and digital tools.