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How to Design a Library Research Assignment

The skills necessary to become information literate are analogous to those skills required of someone who employs critical thinking. This guide provides sample information literacy assignments and guidelines for creating effective library assignments

Information Literacy Sample Assignments

These assignments draw upon elements of critical thinking. They are easily adapted to many subjects.
1. Outline a Research Paper. Students plan and perform research, without actually writing a paper. Tasks include developing a research question, providing an annotated bibliography of sources, and writing an introduction, thesis statement, and conclusion. May be used as a stand-alone assignment, or as preparation for a research project.
2. Compare Search Results Between a Free Search Engine and a Library Database. Helps students appreciate the differences between the information found on the "free" Web available through search engines such as Google, and information found in subscription periodical databases such as EBSCO’s Academic Search Ultimate.
3. Critique Wikipedia. Requires students to provide in-depth criticism and analysis of a Wikipedia article. Students examine the bibliography of the Wikipedia entry to see how well it supports the entry itself, and then perform their own research to see if other sources either corroborate or dispute the claims made in the Wikipedia entry. This assignment addresses students’ research and critical analysis skills.
4. Examine Bias. Raises awareness of media bias and employs database research skills. Students locate and cite one article from a conservative publication, and another on the same topic from a liberal publication. Students then compare, contrast and evaluate the two articles.
5. Evaluate Scholarly Research. Students find two journal articles on the same topic, and, in a short paper, compare, contrast and evaluate the two articles according to the quality of their research. This assignment helps sharpen students' skills of critical evaluation, and helps them appreciate the importance of good research.
6. Write a Letter to the Editor. Teaches writing, critical thinking, and research skills. Without doing any research, students write a letter in which they take a position on a contemporary issue. Students then share letters with their classmates, with whom they give and receive feedback on ways that the letter could be substantiated and improved. Students then develop a short research paper from the letter.

Adapted and used with permission from St. John’s University Libraries.

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