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Library instruction program: Creating assignments

Tips for Creating Research Assignments

Research assignments provide opportunities to help students develop this understanding and practice their research skills.

Assignment instructions can provide the guidance students need to succeed in the assignment, and prevent anxiety, stress, and frustration by being explicit about what resources to use, how to search for them, and how and why to use them to complete the assignment.

  • Keep the skill level of your students in mind. Many research skills and concepts that seasoned researchers take for granted are often completely unintuitive to students used to using Google to find information for non-academic purposes.
  • Create clear research objectives for your assignment
    • Let students know the research skills that they are expected to learn and demonstrate through the assignment. 
  • Present students with recommended sources, along with an explanation as to what recommends them and why
  • Describe criteria for evaluating sources specific to the assignment. 
  • Provide students with access to library support (Service Desk, email and chat reference, library instruction sessions, appointments with their subject librarian).
  • Test your assignment before giving it to your students.
    • Even better, get a librarian to test it. Librarians meet with students struggling to interpret their assignments every day and know what parts of the assignment are most likely to cause confusion and anxiety in your students.
  • Check the availability of resources before recommending them to your students.
    • A resource that you have used before may no longer be available, or we may have a newer, better resource for your students' research needs. If many students are researching the same narrow topic and need access to the same few books, you may want to place them on reserve.

Assessing Student Work

Assess students on their IL skills and ensure they demonstrate evidence of these skills by incorporating them into your grading rubric.

Assign grades to process-related tasks, rather than just the final product of the research. This can help ensure students are conducting the process adequately.

This can be as easy as awarding marks for the quality and relevance of sources rather than simply for the type and number of sources, or awarding marks for evidence of decision-making, selectivity and strategic searching with regard to information gathering and selection.

Find IL Assessment Rubrics here.