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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

Guidelines for Creating Effective Assignments

When you are designing an assignment, it is worthwhile to review these criteria to avoid common pitfalls and help ensure the usefulness of your assignment.

Good practices


Communicate specific learning objectives (e.g. using Bloom's taxonomy)

Try the assignment yourself to see where students might get hung-up

Take advantage of the library’s research services (e.g. instruction, research consultations)

Emphasize the research process and tools for conducting research in addition to the research
topic itself.

Teach database research strategies like using key terms and synonyms, using subject-specific databases to find credible sources, evaluating credibility and citing references appropriately

Collaborate with your reference librarians to design assignments that best utilize the library’s collections and services

Things to avoid


The Mob Scene -- sending the entire class to look for the same information, book, or article; use a variety of resources, give students different assignments

The Shot in the Dark -- inadvertently giving incomplete or incorrect information

The Scavenger Hunt -- sending students to search for information without a defined set of possible sources

The Old Curiosity Shop -- assigning use of outdated reference sources: make sure your links are current and the library has recent editions

The Elusive Topic -- assuming students will be able to select a manageable topic without faculty or librarian assistance

Lost in Space -- sending students off to begin their research without demonstrating how to approach the assignment: provide some hands-on time to try the assignment when the faculty member is available for consultation

Additional recommendations for effective design of information literacy assignments are available from St. John's University Libraries.

Adapted and used with permission from the University of Maryland University College.

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