Assignment Design Resources
Designing or updating an assignment with a research component? Need an assignment that meets a research-based or Information Management Gen Ed requirements? Want to beef up the information literacy skills of your students? Getting more questions about that research assignment than you want?
The librarians can help you design or locate an applicable research assignment. We can also help you locate and embed support/scaffolding materials, so that your students can concentrate on the course content and their learning, rather than getting frustrated over the minutia of the research process.
Support elements (and clear instructions) are crucial for student comprehension and successful completion of research assignments.
Checklist for Assignment Instructions [with links to support materials where appropriate]
- Assessment/Outcomes/Grades - criteria/rubric used provided to students? [Writing Effective Learning Outcomes]
- Chunked - submit assignment in stages (e.g., topic, then, annotated bibliography, outline, draft, final paper) [How To Chunk Out a Research Assignment]
- Dates - due dates clearly identified?
- Information Evaluation - help for evaluating information sources provided? [Evaluate Sources: Use a Rat TRAP]
- Model Assignment - provide a sample of a good assignment submission?
- Pages - how long should it be?
- Search Tools - mention of or links to most relevant search tools provided? [ESC Databases A to Z]
- Sources - number required? Types of information sources desired? [Primary & Secondary Sources ; Peer Review in 3 Minutes]
- Structure - style guidelines used? Type of paper? [Online Style Guides ; Genres in Academic Writing]
- Topic - provided examples or scope of possible topics? [Develop a Research Question]
- Writing - links to writing support materials? [ESC Online Writing Center ; How to Integrate Sources into Your Writing]
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, contextual examples, clearly written, student-centered instructions and assignments that break the research process into parts – can help with this. See Sample Research Assignments
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 an alternative tutorial on this process), and Sample Research Paper Scaffold Handout
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