Course assignments that integrate library research and information literacy are an effective way to develop students' critical thinking skills with the additional benefit of discouraging plagiarism. A well-designed research assignment provides students with an opportunity to explore and integrate information resources and encourages them to think critically about information sources.


The Well-Designed Assignment

  • is provided and explained in writing (not verbally)
  • has a specific purpose
  • identifies its learning objectives clearly in easily understood unambiguous language
  • states specifically the criteria by which the assignment's product will be evaluated
  • relates to some aspect of the subject matter or the learning objectives of the course
  • has progressively organized deadlines for students to have an opportunity for feedback
  • leads to increased understanding of the subject
  • makes students aware of a variety of sources and formats available
  • teaches students to identify, locate, access, evaluate, and integrate information sources into the context they create and present
  • reinforces habits of ethical scholarship through proper citation
  • if a library instruction session is employed, the sources recommended and practiced in the session should be used in the product

From LOEX of the West 2004, "Partnering to Integrate Information Competence into the Learning Outcomes of Academic Departments," presented by Dr. Ilene Rockman and Suellen Cox.

General Assignments

  • Select a scholar/researcher in a field of study and explore that person's career and ideas. In addition to locating biographical information, prepare a bibliography of writings and analyze the reaction of the scholarly community to the researcher's work.
  • Nominate someone or a group for the Nobel Peace Prize. Learn about the prize, the jury, etc. Justify the nominations.
  • Identify significant people in a discipline. Consult a variety of biographical resources and subject encyclopedias to gain a broader appreciation for the context in which important accomplishments were achieved.
  • Identify a significant event or publication in a discipline. Ascertain the important people, etc., involved by consulting a variety of library resources.
  • A verbatim transcript of an analytical description of a news conference can serve as a format for simulated interviews with well known people of any period. What questions would contemporaries have asked? What questions would we now, with hindsight, want to ask? How would contemporary answers have differed from those that might be given today? Take a rigorous, analytical approach, both in terms of the questions to be asked and the information contained in the answers.

Discipline Specific Assignments


After being assigned or choosing a "diagnosis," act as a responsible patient by investigating both the diagnosis and the prescribed treatment. Results should cover: a description of the condition and its symptoms; its etiology; its prognosis; the effectiveness of the prescribed treatment, its side effects and contradictions, along with the evidence; and, finally, a comparison of the relative effectiveness of alternate treatments. Results can also be presented: oral or visual presentations, slideshows, poster sessions, etc.