The information research assignments is integral to the learning experience and it can be designed in such a way as to encourage students to actively seek information, to retrieve it successfully, to assess it critically and to apply it in thought-provoking and challenging ways.
This Web page provides suggested guidelines for developing meaningful assignments based on information research.
An effective assignment should:
Our experience shows that students do not have a working knowledge of the library and of information research, and they have little or no experience in conducting academic-level research.
A well-designed assignment should:
Learning anxiety is common among undergraduate students and extends to information research. Providing appropriate guidance can go a long way in reducing anxiety and in helping students succeed.
When planning an assignment, state your expectations and provide guidelines. Instructions should:
Discuss the assignment in class and talk about the research process. In addition, a library workshop may be organized by contacting your subject librarian. Provide links to the Libraries' Web site and encourage students to talk with a librarian for any research help they require.
Each academic department in the University has a designated subject librarian whose knowledge and expertise in information research within a particular subject area can prove valuable.
Your subject librarian can:
In addition to asking students to include a bibliography at the end of their assignment, ask them to annotate the entries to include information on how they found sources, what types they are and how they are useful. They can also talk about the limitations of the material they find. This exercise sharpens students' search skills and critical evaluation abilities.
Have students compare the information they find from the Web and databases, from popular and scholarly material, from primary and secondary sources. For instance, have students find a reference to a study in a newspaper or magazine article and ask them to locate the actual study in a scholarly journal. Then, have them contrast both articles by showcasing the value and limits of both types. This assignment allows students to identify characteristics of each type of information source as well as the pros and cons of using one over the other.
Students prepare presentations that are supported by credible information found through research. The value of their presentation depends on their ability to express important points succinctly while relying on gathered data and sources.
Understanding the literature of a discipline
One of the greatest challenges that students face when starting to conduct research is their limited knowledge of the literature in a particular discipline. They are unfamiliar with the journals, the major authors and the structure of scholarly research. Having them investigate the information/publishing cycle of a particular subject area to find out how the literature is produced and communicated can be a useful exercise. This demystifies the term "literature" and familiarizes students with the scholarly publication process and other useful sources for their discipline.
Creating a course pack
Have students compile the readings according to specific limitations (last 10 years, scholarly articles, etc.) or to broader ones (can include newspaper, Web, etc.). In addition, they must write an introduction to the course pack that displays an understanding of the subject matter and an explanation/annotation for each item (why it was chosen). This assignment allows students to use search tools, to evaluate what they find and to summarize the material they choose.
Writing a family history
This is useful for a history course as students are requested to use various sources of information to compile a family history. Actual interview (primary sources), surveys, birth/death/marriage notices, maps, directories and newspapers are examples.
Develop an ad campaign
Ask business students to develop a marketing plan for a potential advertisement campaign. They will need to research product reviews, conduct market research to identify demographic and financial information, review psychological research linked to advertising and consumer behaviour, etc.
Creative writing assignment
Library research and information literacy competencies can be integrated within a creative writing course. Have students write the opening chapter for a historical novel, for instance, whereby they must research daily routine, customs, eating habits, rituals, dress, social status and other pertinent information related to a particular time period.
The following resources were consulted in preparing this Web page and the accompanying Faculty Development Workshop:
Relevant articles and reports
For more information, please contact the Libraries.