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Teaching and Learning at the Campus Library: Designing Effective Research Assignments

Consult with your Librarian in Advance

image of highwayMeet with your librarian before or at the beginning of the quarter to work with you while developing your syllabus and assignments.

Your librarian can help you:

  • Develop learning goals for your research assignment. 
  • Identify appropriate resources for your students, including those readily available in print or online, or materials that the Campus Library may be able to purchase or borrow.
  • Develop strategies to help discourage plagiarism.
  • Abide by the Library's Filming and Photography policy if they will be doing this kind of work in the Library. Your librarian can help you design a policy-friendly assignment while maintaining its filming and photography elements.

Image: Ben Fredericson (xjrlokix). _IGP5461 | 70. 2008. Retrieved 30 Aug 2012.

Understand your Students' Research Skills

  • Have realistic expectations of students' research abilities. Remember that the research process and information landscape is changing constantly. Even with some experience doing research, students are still developing their understanding of the processes and tools involved.
  • Offer students time in class for discussions on focusing a topic and generating research questions, and offer a variety of topics from which to choose.
  • Break research assignments into manageable pieces with checkpoints along the way. This can include short writing assignments, research journals, working or annotated bibliographies, and in-class or online discussions.
  • Encourage students to visit the Library early in their research!
    • Make sure they know how and where to get help from librarians.

Make it Relevant & Doable

  • Ensure your research or library assignment is closely related to your course content. Obscure assignments (such as "treasure hunts" in the library) are out of context and significantly less meaningful for students.
  • Set clear assignment learning outcomes and communicate them to your students.
  • Make sure students understand your assignment.  Discuss it in class and provide it in writing to students so they and the librarians helping them can refer back to it.
  • Be sure the library has the resources your students need!  Avoid requiring students to use resources the library does not own or have in your preferred format (e.g. print journal articles) and cannot obtain within a reasonable time frame.
  • Avoid having each student research the same topic.  This tends to stretch library resources too thin, especially when printed materials or limited connections to a key database are involved.

Provide Tools & Support

  • Provide copies of research assignments to your librarian so we are better prepared to assist your students when they need help.
  • Consider putting materials on reserve that will be needed by large numbers of students to ensure all students will have access to them.
  • Ensure students have the necessary technical support to complete the assignment. If you're requiring that students create multimedia presentations contact UWB IT or Cascadia's Bock Learning Center for assistance.

Common Challenges to Avoid

  • Waiting until a couple days before the class to ask for an instruction session doesn't allow librarians adequate time to prepare and reserve a classroom.
  • Sending (or bringing) an entire class to the Library for research time on the fly.  The 1st floor computer workstations are for individual or small group drop-in use. The desk is staffed as such and cannot adequately accommodate classes.

Helpful Resources

How Do I Request a Workshop for my Class?