Skip to Main Content

Library Resources for Faculty: Research Assignments & Instruction

Sample Research Assignments

Lone Star College System: Alternatives to the Traditional Research Paper
Short easy-to-implement suggestions that depart from the typical paper.

Cornell College: Guide to Assignments for Library Research
Strategies to create authentic research assignments, not just reports.

Want to swap ideas with other instructors or get some feedback on your own assignments? Contact your librarian. We would be happy to suggest ideas and help you share yours!

Tips for Creating Effective Research Assignments

  • Clearly communicate expectations for research assignments. How many sources do you require? What types of sources? Are any types of sources not acceptable?  
  • Be clear about terminology. If you require scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles, be specific about this requirement. Some students think “no internet” means “no library databases” because they’re both accessed online. Students might not always know what a scholarly peer-reviewed source is. If you need help defining and explaining these, librarians can provide resources or instruction on these topics.
  • Don’t assume previous knowledge about the research process. Some students may have never located a book on the shelf or used a database. Similarly, students may be overconfident in searching skills equating internet searching with research; they aren't the same. Additionally, students' level of comfort with technology varies widely. Also, RES104 isn't a catch-all; it's an introduction. Research skills, like any other skills, need regular use to stick.
  • Break research projects into steps or several assignments. For example, a research paper may require a proposal for approval first, then a preliminary bibliography (annotated or not), an outline, and several drafts. Feedback and accountability for students in each step will help them to understand the process and avoid plagiarism.
  • If you plan to have an entire class use one source, place it on reserve or e-reserve first. If it is an online resource available through the library, please contact a librarian to ensure it is linked correctly for on- and off-campus use. Because our resources are purchased and not freely available on the web, they need to be linked in a particular way to be accessible off-campus.
  • Ensure that the students know the purpose/outcome of the assignment. For example, a scavenger hunt requiring students to find specific facts might not teach what you intended. Sometimes assignments without clear purpose may reinforce some students’ negative perceptions of research.
  • Students may feel hesitant to approach a librarian because they have never done so or because of previous negative experiences, so suggesting they “go see a librarian” may not be helpful to them. Instead, consider having a librarian talk to your class. 

Some ideas adapted from: Houdyshell, M. (2003). Navigating the library: What students (and faculty) need to know. College Teaching, 51(2), 76-78.

Sample rubrics

Include information literacy specifically in your assignment rubrics. See the examples linked here for ideas about how to incorporate source quality in how you evaluate student work.

What is library instruction?

The information literacy program empowers students to seek, create, & share new ideas in a complex information landscape by teaching skills that extend from the classroom to students' personal & professional lives

Library instruction can include teaching students how to search the catalog for books and databases for articles, but it doesn't just have to be that. Librarians can help with any part of the research process, from topic and question development, to source integration and use, and everything in between. It can be about finding government statistics in American Fact Finder from the Census Bureau or how to connect Google Scholar to the paid library resources. It can be about strategies for approaching a 15-page paper or evaluating online news articles shared on Facebook. 

Library instruction is:

  • connected directly to an assignment
  • tailored specifically to your course
  • hands-on and interactive
  • taught by library faculty

Library instruction is not:

  • a generic library introduction
  • a drop-off service
  • a workday in a computer lab
  • a one-time thing that only happens in RES104

It can happen in the dedicated library instruction computer classroom or in your classroom. It can even take the form of online tutorials and research guides for your course. It can be one class session or a sequence of a few or a drop in for 30 minutes. 


What your liaison can do for you

Each academic department/program has a professional librarian assigned to work with faculty and students in that area to help ensuring a library collection that meets student and faculty needs and help students, faculty, and staff effectively access information 
Your liaison librarian can help you:

  • Plan effective research assignments
  • Teach students how to find information for particular assignments
  • Purchase materials you or students need for classes and research
  • Find information you need for your own research
  • Learn how to effectively use library materials, tools and services

Your Librarian

Contact your librarian anytime. Your librarian can help you:

  • Find information for your project
  • Request books or articles the UD library doesn't own
  • Track trends over time in your field of research
  • Find out about research methods in your field
  • Learn how to effectively use specialized library materials and tools
  • Incorporate & cite sources in your project

Becky Canovan
Asst. Director of Public Services
Librarian liaison for:
Aviation, Business, Core Curriculum, DART, English, Fine & Performing Arts, History/Politics, HWS, Math, Seminary

Office Phone: (563) 589-3649

Sarah Slaughter
Reference & Instruction Librarian
Librarian liaison for: 

Communication, Criminal Justice, DNAS, Education, Nursing, PA, Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology 
Office Phone: (563) 589-3645