Mardigian Library
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Creating Effective Research Assignments

Key Questions

  • Are these the most useful or relevant library resources (either print or online) to use for this assignment?
  • Are the directions clear to students? Is the assignment too vague?
  • Am I up-to-date on the new resources available in the library?
  • Have I asked a librarian to help me identify good resources that everyone can access?
  • Does the library carry the materials that I am suggesting?

Library Assignment Tips

The Basics: Define, Develop, Test

Define your Objectives

  • What do you expect students to learn as a result of the assignment?
  • Is the assignment part of a bigger paper or a "treasure hunt?"
  • How does the assignment relate to your general course objectives?



Develop the assignment

  • Include critical thinking. Does the assignment require students to consider what they have learned?
  • Will students evaluate the information they find and compare to other sources?
  • Can students tailor the assignment to their interests, make choices, explore different approaches?
  • Suggest a time frame for completion of each segment
  • Schedule library sessions for the assignment at the time the students will need to do research

Test the Assignment

  • Try the assignment yourself. If you have trouble finding something, your students won't find it any more easily.
  • Are the materials in the library? Check the Library Catalog or consult with your library liaison to ensure materials are available.
  • If the assignment requires students to use resources from Ann Arbor or from another area university, be aware that it will take students more time.
  • If many students are asked to look at one specific source, consider placing the resource on Reserve.
  • Can more than one resource be used to answer a question? Suggest alternative titles when possible.



Other things to consider:

What materials are accessed online?

  • Many of our journals are available in full text from library research databases accessed via the web. Some are available only online.
  • Some are only available in print.
  • Some have to be interlibrary loaned from other libraries.
  • It is important to distinguish electronic titles from their print counterparts; some change title names when formats are changed.

For example:

Psychological Abstracts is the print title of this publication PsycInfo is the electronic title of Psychological Abstracts.

This distinction is important so students will not waste time searching for titles that no longer exist under its "print" title.

Internet Assignments
  • Can students distinguish between "free" sites on the Internet for information and "paid" sites (such as our subscription databases)?
  • Can they evaluate the quality of information found on the Internet?
  • Be aware that internet sites change often. If you require the use of an Internet site for a class assignment, check to make sure it's still available or hasn't changed drastically.
  • Suggest a specific Internet site(s) that may have information needed for research, or a couple of search engines (Google, Yahoo! Search, Ask, etc.) that can be used to find the information.


As always, the Library Research Center librarians are willing to assist you in creating a library assignment or preparing a library research education session in conjunction with a specific assignment. Please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.

Mardigian Library
4901 Evergreen Rd.
Dearborn, MI 48128-2406
313-593-5400  fax 313-593-5561

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