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Information Literacy @ ASU: Research Assignments

About Research Assignments

Not all ASU courses require students to complete a research paper.  Yet, most assignments in all subject areas require students to effectively research their topic.

Librarians want to work with you to plan assignments which will make good use of Library resources and to present Information Literacy instruction for your courses.

Contact us to explore some of the alternatives to term or research papers.

Developing an Effective Research Assignment

    If you're requiring students to use library resources for an assignment, consider the following as you design the assignment:

    • Assume minimal library knowledge. Students may equate information technology skills with information literacy skills. They may not understand what is meant by "peer-reviewed," "primary source," or "journal article." They may be unaware that the library's resources are in any way different from what can be found on the Internet. (This is something we always try to emphasize in instruction sessions.)
    • Be specific. Call databases, the library catalog, and other information sources by name: ProQuest, LWLC Library Catalog, Harvard Business Review, American FactFinder, etc.
    • Have students explain their choice of resources. Creating a limit on resources like "no websites" can be confusing to students (who may not differentiate between electronic sources on the library's website and the free Web), and can cut them off from useful information. (We can help students learn how to better evaluate sources.)
    • Check availability of resources. If all students need to get access to the same book, place it on reserve. A few of our databases have simultaneous user limits or require additional passwords. Our collections are changing and improving all the time - if you suggest sources to students, make sure they are up-to-date with the libraries' holdings (or are easily accessible elsewhere).
    • Encourage students to use reference services. The librarian is available to help students several hours a day in person and by phone or e-mail.

    For more ideas, read these articles: 

    "Assignments: Being Clear About What Matters" by Barbara Fister (in Inside Higher Ed)

    "What Happens to Your Research Assignment at the Library?" by Dennis Isbell (in College Teaching)


    Jenkins, B. (2007, February). Guidelines for Effective Library Assignments. Retrieved November 9, 2010, from

    Queen's University. (2008, October). Designing Research Assignments. Retrieved November 9, 2010, from

      Suggestions for Research Assignments

      While the traditional research paper is still a commonly-used assignment, there are a variety of alternatives.

      Instructors may choose to create and use alternative research assignments to include a research component in a course that doesn't lend itself well to papers, or to respond to the rising incidence of plagiarism. Some instructors add assignments leading up to the final research paper that allow students to receive feedback on every stage of the research process.  Ideas include:

      • Search log
      • Annotated bibliography

      In other instances, instructors choose to move away entirely from the requirement to write a paper.  Ideas include:

      • Podcast for an art show
      • Mock conference presentation
      • Debate
      • Promotional video

      Check out these websites for other ideas and examples:

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