Use these multidisciplinary assignment prompts to assist you in creating active learning research activities for your students. Research assignments like these can introduce students to finding and assessing academic sources, learning about scholarly communication and peer review, and practicing responsible citation and paraphrasing. Add a quick assessment to complete the exercise.
Contact your subject librarian if you would like ideas for creating an assignment tailored to your class, to schedule a research workshop, or to create an online subject guide for your students. We are here to help!
Description: Working in groups, ask students to select a current social issue relevant to the course content (i.e. immigration, global warming, education reform, etc.) and find and compare two articles from either a domestic and foreign news source or from a scholarly and non-scholarly source. Examination of different types of sources opens the floor to discussions of bias and/or how information sources are written to different audiences.
Description: Give students an editorial, website or political speech to read and ask them to verify the information, using a variety of library resources. Before beginning the assignment, the class could examine the FactCheck.org website as an example of professional fact checking in the public interest. Close examination of a writer's "facts" and how they are used or misused is an excellent exercise in rhetoric and critical thinking.
Description: Using an assigned reading, ask students to brainstorm several 'what, how or why' research questions on a specific issue. Divide the class into groups and assign each group a question. The groups will find a specified number of sources to answer their question (a book, journal/magazine article, website, etc.) and present a summary of their findings to the class. Taken together, the work of each of the groups will provide the class with the "big picture" of the issue. Students will feel ownership of the topic while learning how to create an effective research statement to find a variety of research sources.
Description: Ask students to think of a potential company that they may wish to work for someday. Each student will be asked to compile a descriptive summary of that company/industry using information like company reports, statistics, and news/magazine articles. Pair students and have them role play employer and applicant at a job interview. Each pair will come up with three questions an employer would want to ask an applicant and the best answers to these questions that would get the applicant hired.
Description: Ask students to use a GALILEO database to locate and read a journal article on a subject, ideally one related to a current topic or class discussion/reading. Students will then examine 3-5 citations from that article and trace how the information was used and passed along. Students could then summarize their findings from the 3-5 sources and discuss how information was "traced" from one researcher to another. This would be an excellent exercise in discussing academic discourse and evaluating appropriate use of information.
Description: Analyze the reception of a particular idea or concept (i.e. Natural Selection, Psychoanalysis, Communism, Woman's Suffrage, etc.) over time by finding books/magazines/journals from various time periods, from the idea's inception to the present. Students would evaluate these sources to create an annotated timeline of the discourse. This assignment is a great way to compare/contrast primary and secondary sources while showing how an idea develops and changes over time.
Description: Working in small groups, students are asked to examine and evaluate two websites relevant to a specific research topic. Students must determine whether these sites are authoritative, reliable, and current in the field. Students demonstrate their findings to the entire class.
Description: Working in groups, students are given a typical 'problem' that a professional in their field would confront, e.g., a teacher dealing with a 3rd grade math class with students of widely varying ability. The groups must find a website and/or journal article that would help them solve the problem.
The best way to assess information literacy learning in a course is through some form of written self-reflection. Instructors see what learning has actually occurred and students get another chance to reinforce their new skills. Some of these assessments are suitable for a single-class assignment; others are for longer term assignments.
Keeping a Research Log
Students describe and reflect on their research process, noting what worked for them and what did not. A great tool to add in to any kind of journaling assignment.
Students synthesize the information sources they found - Emphasizes critical thinking and responsible use of information. They must paraphrase and/or quote their sources using proper citation style while also framing the topic in their own words. A good writing development tool.
Students describe the source and how it was (or wasn’t) useful – A good, quick exercise in evaluating a source.
Create a tip sheet
What would you tell another student about how to successfully find information using library resources and the web? Reveals students’ own successes and pitfalls in a way that is conducive to peer-to-peer teaching.
Here is a list of UCLA's collection of web-based classroom assessment techniques.
Each of these assessments asks students to write for 60 seconds. A quick way to get some interesting, and revealing information about what made sense and what did not. These are also great entrees to follow up sessions to cover the questions students still had.
- 3 – 2 - 1 - List three things you learned in this session, list two things that are still unclear to you, list one thing you learned in the session that you will do differently in the future when you have to conduct library research.
- Muddy Waters – What has been the "muddiest" point so far in this session? That is, what topic remains the least clear to you?
- Transfer & Apply – 1) Write some intriguing ideas, techniques, strategies, and tactics from this session. 2) Write some possible applications to my own classroom/lab/studio/home.
- Make the Connection (for more than one instruction session) - In a few sentences, make one connection between what you learned last time and what you've just learned this time.
- Affective Response – What was the part of the research process that was most surprising to you? What part was easiest? What part was most difficult?