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Faculty: Create An Assignment

Well designed research assignments that support course objectives are an effective way to introduce students to the instructional and support services of an academic library. There are many reasons why a well designed library research assignment should be included in the goals for your course.

The following guidelines can assist in creating effective research assignments, introduce or reinforce information literacy skills including the ability to find, evaluate and use information effectively and efficiently and help to ensure students of a positive library experience.

Before the Assignment
During the Assignment
After the Assignment
Alternatives to the Research Paper

Before the Assignment
Get acquainted with your students and their various needs, abilities, and learning styles. Look at the Seven Principles for Good Practice in Undergraduate Education developed by teaching and learning gurus Arthur Chickering and Zelda F. Gamson.

Determine the purpose/goal of the assignment and how it fits within course objectives. Decide what part(s) of the
research process will be emphasized and how the progress of the students will be monitored.

Consult with a Oakton reference librarian before the assignment to determine the assignment's feasibility or for additional ideas on creating assignments that promote information literacy.The Oakton Library supports information literacy and the educational mission of the College through a variety of instructional and support services. See Why Information Literacy? that was featured in the August 2001 issue of the NEA Advocate.

Choose assignments that require critical thinking and the integration of knowledge. Some instructors also find educator's Benjamin Bloom's taxonomy useful in designing effective research assignments. See Promoting Information Literacy Through Class Assignments for ideas on helping students to become information literate. Avoid scavenger hunts since they do little to promote information literacy and a positive library experience.

Assignments on a smaller scale can help students build confidence in their own research abilities; this leads to less frustration in library use and more positive results. Create realistic expectations for the assignment since many students have had little or no experience in using an academic library.
Tips For Effective Library Research Assignments from the Library at New Mexico State University provides tips on avoiding frustrating experiences for students.

Make sure students can use the necessary equipment such as computers, photocopiers, microfilm readers, printers, etc.

Decide whether or not you want your students to use the Internet. If Internet use is acceptable, determine the skill level of your students. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:Why It's A Good Idea To Evaluate Internet Resources from the New Mexico State University Library and Hoax? Scholarly Research? Public Opinion? You Decide! from the UCLA Library gives students practice in evaluating information on the web. The Google directory has additional web sites on evaluating information and additional examples which demonstrate hoaxes.

If you're giving students instructions for accessing the Web and/or the Library's online peridodical indexes, make sure (or ask a librarian to make sure!) the directions are as current and accurate as possible. Remember...the world of library technology is a world of constant change and is always evolving!

Ask students to attend a
Go Digital! research workshop, encourage individual research consultations and/or collaborate with a librarian on a workshop designed to support the goals of your assignment. Research workshops can be arranged at either campus at a time convenient for you and your students. The Des Plaines campus has a Library classroom that can be reserved for your class. Call the Reference Desk in Des Plaines or Skokie to reserve a workshop date and time.

Alert reference and circulation staffs of any upcoming assignment that will require heavy library use so that materials may be set aside, acquired, or placed on reserve. This avoids frustration for students and library personnel, as well.

Keep the librarians informed of your assignment. Send a copy of the assignment to the Reference Desk in advance.

Notify the Reference Desk if you plan to visit with your class to work on your assignment. This will avoid conflicts when more than one class visits at the same time.

Try the assignment yourself to determine what works and what needs to be refined.

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During the Assignment
Explain the assignment clearly, preferably in writing. When the assignment is written, it also clarifies the assignment for the librarians working with the students.

If you haven't scheduled a research workshop for your class, now may be the time. If your students have attended a workshop, consider scheduling another workshop on a different and/or an advanced research skill or give them time to practice what they already know.

Make sure students are aware of library and internet terminology.

Help students evaluate and distinguish between the different types of sources. Discuss the importance of web evaluation.

Be aware of copyright restrictions.

Encourage students to read and understand the College's Information Technology Policies and Rules.

Understand the interlibrary loan system and how it might impact the research process.
ILLINET Online can help to locate items in many other Illinois college and university libraries. Or students may be able to locate items in one of the north suburban public libraries.

Emphasize respect for the Library and library materials.

Help students pace the assignment.

Make sure students understand the
need to cite sources;inform students of the required citation style for your course.

Be aware of and warn students about
plagiarism. The University of Alberta Libraries have created an informative web site for faculty on the subject of online plagiarism. See also Plagiarism & Cyber-Plagiarism:A Guide to Selected Resources On The Web from College & Research Libraries News.
Interested in reading more about plagiarism? See
The Plagiarism Handbook:Strategies for Preventing, Detecting and Dealing with Plagiarism which can be found in the Oakton Library, Des Plaines campus. Call Number: PN167.H37

Encourage students to appreciate and work with
reference librarians.

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After the Assignment
Evaluate the assignment according to the course objectives. What needs to be changed?

Would you give the assignment again? Why or why not?

Ask the students to evaluate the assignment and discuss the results.

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Alternatives to the Research Paper
Critical thinking and encouraging the development of information literacy skills should be the cornerstones of any research assignment. These goals can be accomplished in a variety of ways and the lengthy research paper can often be overwhelming for students will little experience in the process. In addition, the advantages of assigning alternatives to a research paper can include reducing the risk of plagiarism, reducing the time required for grading and providing students with opportunities to respond creatively to something new.

See Library Assignments:Challenges that Students Face and How to Help in College Teaching, Spring 2001 and Best Practices:Information Literacy and Library Research Assignments at Oakton.

Consider these alternatives when designing research assignments and ask your students to:
--prepare an annotated bibliography on a topic of their choice
--research a
social issue and participate in a panel discussion or debate
--prepare an
abstract of a journal article
--find and compare
book reveiws on a book relevant to the course
evaluate information on the same topic from a popular magazine, a scholarly journal and the web
--compare and contrast different accounts of the same event using a variety of sources

Web Sites
Creating An Effective Library Research Assignment
tips from the Library, College of DuPage

Internet Goes to College:How Students are Living in The Future with Today's Technology
report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that funds original, academic-quality research exploring the impact of the Internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life; the Project aims to be an authoritative impartial source for timely information on the Internet's growth and societal impact

Navigating The Web of Discourse on The Scholarship of Teaching & Learning
webliography from College & Research Libraries News

Term Paper Alternatives
list of alternatives from the Library, University of California, Berkeley

The Collaborative Imperative: Librarians and Faculty Working Together in the Information Universe
Call Number: Z675.U5C6417 (DP)

Engaging Ideas: The Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom
Call Number: PE1404.B35 (DP)

Information Literacy: Developing Students as Independent Learners
Call Number: Z674.5.U5I526 (DP)

The Plagiarism Handbook: Strategies for Preventing, Detecting, and Dealing with Plagiarism
Call Number: PN167.H37 (DP)

Promoting Active Learning: Strategies for The College Classroom
Call Number: LB1027.23.M49 (DP)

Using Internet Primary Sources to Teach Critical Thinking Skills in Government, Economics, and Contemporary World Issues
Call Number: H61.95.S49 (DP)

Web of Deception: Misinformation on The Internet
Call Number: ZA4201.W43 (DP)

Web Wisdom: How To Evaluate and Create Information Quality on The Web
Call Number: TK5105.888.A376 (DP)

What Successful Teachers Do: 91 Research-Based Classroom Strategies for
New and Veteran Teachers

Call Number: LB1025.3.G51 (DP)

The Wired Professor: A Guide to Incorporating the World Wide Web In College Instruction
Call Number: LB2331.K35 (DP & RHC)

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