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Successful Library Assignments: Why Are We Doing This?

This guide will provide faculty with practical suggestions and tips to consider when making assignments that require library research.

Key Concept

Talk about how and why you chose this particular assignment and what specific learning objectives will be accomplished.  This critical first step is often not understood by students.

In Class Discussion Topics


  • What are the "hot" topics in this field?
  • How do these hot topics differ from research topics a decade ago?
  • How is information usually disseminated in this field (i.e. conferences, journals, online discussion groups, etc.)?
  • What types of sources are used in this discipline on a professional level (i.e. peer-reviewed journals, popular media, etc.)?
  • What is the difference in scholarly and popular sources and who is the primary audience for each source?
  • What is a primary source in this field? What is a secondary source?  What are some distinguishing characteristics of each?
  • What research methods are used in this discipline (i.e. clinical studies, observation, etc.)?  Why are these research methods particularly suited to this field?
  • During class, ask your students to evaluate, analyze, compare, and question the information they are finding.  Explain why these critical thinking skills are valued by employeers and will help with their future academic career. 

Possible Assignments

  • Write a brief essay outlining the ways scholars in this field find and use information.
  • Have students identify and compare a scholarly article and a popular article on the same topic.  What are the similarities and differences?
  • Provide students with a variety of sources in the discipline (i.e. peer-reviewed journals, websites, newspapers, etc.) and have them make arguments about whether and why they would classify them as scholarly or popular).
  • Give students several research topics and have students list the kind of questions a researcher might ask and what sources might be appropriate to use in trying to explore this topic (i.e. would a researcher need statistical data, would they need a review of literature, should they interview individuals, should they conduct a study, etc.)?
  • Have students consider the kinds of writing they have done in the past (i.e. autobiographical, diaries, research papers, etc) and discuss whether these materials would be considered primary or secondary sources in this field.