Online Library

Assignment Design Resources

Designing or updating an assignment with a research component?

Getting more questions about that research assignment than you expected?

Ask the librarians for help. The librarians can help you locate or create and embed support/scaffolding materials so that your students can concentrate on the course content and their learning, rather than the process.

Support elements are crucial for student comprehension and successful completion of research assignments and should be included in instructions whenever possible.

Most students are not aware that they are expected to contribute their own voices and ideas to the scholarly discussions of their chosen discipline/profession. Support materials and smart design — tutorials and learning objects, contexual examples, clearly written, student-centered instructions and assignments that break the research process into parts — can help with this. See Sample Research Assignments

Clear Expectations

Students often do not have prior experience with scholarly articles, citation styles, or research terminology, such as "peer-review," "primary source," or "literature review." Be sure to define concepts and processes like these clearly, as well as your expectations for how they fit into the assignment. You also can link to appropriate tutorials.

Remember that the college library is completely online, so telling students not to use "Web resources" without any context can be confusing. See Guided Research Assignments.

Clear Assessment Criteria

If possible, provide a rubric or clear criteria that lay out your expectations for quality in all the different parts that make up a research assignment. See Sample Rubrics

Research Process Scaffolding

Chunking a research paper into its constituent parts (e.g., topic proposal, annotated bibliography, draft submissions, etc.) using distinct activities and feedback can model the research process for students and help them to master difficult or abstract research concepts and methods. 

The results often will be stronger assignments and deeper interactions with the source content. See How To Scaffold a Research Assignment and Sample Research Paper Scaffold Handout