Effective Research Assignments: Library Guidelines for Instructors
Information resources at Queen's are extensive and the critical thinking skills needed for their intelligent use are challenging. Few students select and use information tools effectively. Assume that students need ongoing development of these skills to meet the requirements of research assignments.
Assume Minimal library KnowledgeAll students need an introduction to research skills including clarification of:
- Terminology such as primary and secondary sources.
- Types of resources appropriate for the task such as books, government documents, scholarly articles, statistics, etc.
- library tools appropriate for the discipline. For example, the MLA index for English literature should be discussed in terms of content and coverage especially in comparison to other types of tools such as the Web.
- Research journals vs. popular or trade journals. Many students cannot identify scholarly articles until they have seen and discussed examples of them in comparison to those from popular magazines.
- Citation style. Familiarize students with the APA or MLA styles, especially the format for citing electronic resources such as Web sites.
Check library Resources
- Place required readings on reserve to ensure access and to reduce mutilation of unique library resources.
- Please give staff at least two weeks to process your materials. Reserve service is heavily used and required items may already be signed out necessitating a waiting period until they are returned.
- Provide a variety of research topics to reduce competition for resources.
- Check availability and accuracy of all prescribed resources.
- New reserve lists are required each term a course is offered.
- Books are automatically placed on reserve once more than two holds are placed on them. However, these materials are not associated with a particular course unless they are on an assigned reserve list.
- Review the method for retrieving materials at the Reserve Desk: How to Find Out What's on Reserve. Call numbers, not course numbers, are required.
- Give the liaison librarian a copy of the assignment.
Contact liaison librariansPlease contact the appropriate liaison Instruction librarian for your department for assistance with:
- Development of library-related assignments.
- Decisions regarding the viability of placing large numbers of materials on reserve in the context of independent research objectives for course assignments.
- Identification of library guides and Web pages pertinent to the discipline or research task.
- Instruction for faculty, undergraduates, teaching assistants, large classes, and hands-on labs.
- Evaluation of student learning of information tools following an assignment.
Teach Research Strategy Where AppropriateResearch strategy involves both the "know-how" and "know-why" of information tools. Students who are aware of problem-solving methods in the research process are better able to transfer learning from one assignment to another, overcome information retrieval barriers, and produce a more thoughtful product.
- Work with the liaison librarian to design relevant assignments that teach the research process.
- Arrange for the liaison librarian to give a presentation or a hands-on workshop in class time on a research strategy appropriate to the assignment.
- State the research and information literacy objectives that are part of the research task directly on the assignment sheet.
- Discuss time management for the task and describe the research steps that a learner would expect to follow.
- Discuss examples of alternative research assignments with your liaison librarian that encourage analysis of the information retrieval process and evaluation of information sources.
- Record and evaluate the research process. Assign marks for the documentation of the task to provide a basis for class discussion and to encourage reflection on the process as a whole.
Avoid the Following Types of Assignments
- Large classes working from a limited selection of topics. Competition reduces access.
- Scavenger hunts. These do not teach students how to use the library effectively.
- Searching for obscure facts. This causes unnecessary frustration for staff and students alike.
Last Updated: 22 September 2009