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Designing Assignments that Work

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Effective Research Assignments

  • have clear objectives
  • provide detailed instructions
  • produce tangible & meaningful output
  • teach lasting skills
  • improve understanding of subject matter
  • tie-in directly with course content

Research Assignment Goals should be:

  • directly related to learning outcomes for the course
  • clear and specific
  • communicated to students
    • in writing
    • discussed in class

Keep in mind ...

  • students often know less about research than you (and they) think
  • students lack knowledge of:
    • scholarly communication process
    • relevant journals
    • cornerstone monographs
    • important authors/researchers
    • bibliographic tools

Be Specific

What types of sources are appropriate

  • primary or secondary
  • popular or scholarly articles
  • print, non-print, electronic, etc.
  • government documents

Explain terminology

  • primary vs. secondary sources
  • monographs vs. collected volumes
  • peer reviewed journal
  • review article

Suggest particular/appropriate types of tools

  • use PsycINFO to find a report of a clinical study
  • use the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy for information on the life and work of W.V.O. Quine
  • Use OBIS/OhioLINK Library Catalog to find books or videos beyond class readings

Be Accurate

  • provide complete citations
  • provide call numbers
  • refer to sources by full and proper names

Provide Guidelines

  • Indicate your preferred citation style
  • What are the requirements for using for images (e.g. color vs. black and white, size, resolution, captions)
  • Indicate the word count or number of pages (margins, point size)

Verify the Potential for Success

  • confirm that required resources are available
  • consult with a librarian
    • order new materials
  • try a "dry run" yourself

Be Flexible

  • recognize that not all topics can be handled in the same way

Be Sparing with Prohibitions

  • don't use the Internet
  • don't use encyclopedias
  • don't use Google

Use Research Services

  • consult a librarian during your planning process
  • schedule an instruction session
    • full or partial class session, hands-on searching lab or lecture/demonstration
  • encourage students to ask for help
    • at the reference desk
    • by scheduling research appointments

Use Reserve

Prevent hoarding of resources when all students have the same topic or need to find the same information.

Last updated:
August 25, 2012