Designing Effective Library Assignments

This page will help you design library assignments to help your students achieve information competency goals.

Assignment structure

  • Give students some direction with choosing a project topic.
  • Break down large assignments into parts. This will allow you to assess student progress more efficiently, as well as keep students from waiting until the last minute. For example, require students to turn in the bibliography, outline or rough draft.

Develop outcomes

Integrate library research with course curriculum

  • Orient your students to the library
    • Schedule an Instruction Session (request sessions electronically) with your Subject Librarian.
    • Provide a demonstration of the library home page or database
    • Recommend to your students to use an online tutorial to become familiar with the library

Try to incorporate a variety of information types and formats

  • Have students compare the content of different formats (e.g. Internet vs. books vs. journals vs. magazines)
  • Have them evaluate sources used. For example, including annotations in the bibliography.

Specify the amount of research expected

Discuss Plagiarism & Citing Sources

  • Advise students of citation styles they should use for research papers (APA, MLA, Turabian, etc.).
  • Explain how plagiarism relates to the Internet and full-text databases.
  • Consider using Turnitin or even a phrase search in Google as a tool to help students understand plagiarism.

For more on plagiarism or citing sources see:

Pitfalls to avoid when designing an assignment

Avoid scavenger hunts for facts

  • They are ineffective & students often have no idea where to start.
  • They test librarian's ability to find unrelated bits of trivia.
  • 30 students seeking the same factoid does not teach them about independent research.

Try to avoid assignments that:

  • Require all students to research the same topic, especially if it is a narrow topic that the library has a limit number of items.
  • Assign the same article to all students; unless you put the item on Reserves.
  • Limit students to using only one or two journals. Talk about the characteristics of scholarly journals. Course-integrated library instruction can help them learn to evaluate sources.

Not all topics are created equal!!

  • Check COAST and some of the Library Databases to verify quantity of information on a topic before you assign it.

Assessment of Assignments

Three Stages of Designing and Assessing an Information Literate Assignment
Stages Definition Examples
(with learning outcomes)
what the student is given including clear instructions "Use Statistical Abstracts for figures & use Academic Search Elite to find a magazine article to determine if teen pregnancy is more or less prevalent than a decade ago."
Learning Activity process of the assignment; what the student does Students become familiar with resources you want them to use. 

Students discover a pattern and provide analysis using critical thinking skills.
Assessment determine whether students successful in attaining learning outcomes Students assignments reflect their learning and critical thinking skills.