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Library Toolbox for Faculty and Staff

Research Assignment Design Resources


Designing or updating an assignment with a research component? Need an assignment that meets a research-based or information management general education requirements? Want to improve your students' information literacy skills? Getting more questions about that research assignment than you want?


SUNY Empire academic liaison librarians can help you design or locate an applicable research assignment. We can also help you locate and embed support/scaffolding materials so your students can concentrate on the course content and learning, rather than getting frustrated over the minutia of navigating the library, citing, or figuring out best steps for the research process on their own.

Support elements (and clear instructions) are crucial for student comprehension and successful completion of research assignments.


Checklist for Research Assignment Instructions [with links to support materials where appropriate]

Most students are not aware that they are expected to contribute their own voices and ideas to the scholarly discussions of their chosen discipline/profession. Support materials and smart design – tutorials and learning objects, contextual examples, clearly written, student-centered instructions and assignments that break the research process into parts – can help with this. See Sample Research Assignments


Clear Expectations

Students often do not have prior experience with scholarly articles, citation styles, or research terminology, such as "peer-review," "primary source," or "literature review." Be sure to define concepts and processes like these clearly, as well as your expectations for how they fit into the assignment. You also can link to appropriate tutorials.

Remember that the library is completely online, so telling students not to use "Web resources" without any context can be confusing. If you go this route, be clear that you are not banning the library's electronic/online resources.


Clear Assessment Criteria

If possible, provide a rubric or clear criteria that lay out your expectations for quality in all the different parts that make up a research assignment. See Sample Rubrics


Research Process Scaffolding

Chunking a research paper into its constituent parts (e.g., topic proposal, annotated bibliography, draft submissions, etc.) using distinct activities and feedback can model the research process for students and help them to master difficult or abstract research concepts and methods. 

The results often will be stronger assignments and deeper interactions with the source content. See How To Scaffold a Research Assignment, and Sample Research Paper Scaffold Handout