Librarians can help with developing or revising a research assignment that will support students throughout their research and writing process.
Research assignments often confuse students who have limited experience with scholarly research. The ideas presented here come largely from librarians' experience supporting students in the research process.
Rather than focusing on the end product, usually a research paper, students could benefit from scaffolded assignments that guide them through the process of research and include reflective components on what they are learning.
Identify Learning Outcomes Related to the Research Process.
Be Clear about Your Expectations.
Your students may not have prior experience with academic research and resources. State (in writing) details like:
Also consider discussing how research is produced and disseminated in your discipline, and how you expect your students to participate in academic discourse in the context of your class.
Scaffold the Assignment.
Breaking a complex research assignment down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable parts:
Also, see the recommended examples of scaffolded assignments for FYS and FYW, linked in the boxes on the left.
Devote Class Time to Discussion of the Assignment in Progress.
Periodic discussions in class can help students reflect on the research process and its importance, encourage questions, and help students develop a sense that what they are doing is a transferable process that they can use for other assignments.
Provide Clear Criteria for Assessment.
Be explicit about how the assignment will be evaluated. This criteria should align with the learning outcomes and expectations for the assignment.
Rubrics are one way to communicate assessment criteria to students.
Test Your Assignment.
By testing an assignment, you may identify practical roadblocks to conducting the research (e.g., too few copies of a book for too many students, a source is no longer available online). Librarians can help with this process (e.g., suggest strategies for mitigating roadblocks, place books on reserve, suggest other resources, design customized supporting materials like handouts or web pages).
Collaborate with Librarians.
Librarians can explore with you ways to support students in their research.
Adapted from the LibGuide Research Assignment Design developed by Andrea Baer, of Indiana University Bloomington Libraries. Many thanks to her for permission to reuse this resource.