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Creating Effective Research Assignments

It helps to be mindful when designing assignments with a research component.

General suggestions include:

  • Thoughtfully consider any source requirements, such as not allowing online sources, or requiring only peer-reviewed articles, which may not be the best sources for some topics. Given the increasing amount and variety of information sources available to students, they are best served by evaluating sources critically rather than relying on the black and white designation of peer-reviewed or not. 
  • Make sure you have clear expectations for the degree with which students will engage with the sources they identify. If you expect analysis, then assignments should specify that and provide examples.
  • One strategy to increase engagement with sources is to make the analysis a graded component of the final product.
  • The UMD Libraries have extensive print and electronic collections, and can also obtain resources through relationships with other libraries. That said, if a research assignment requires very specific sources (e.g. digitized letters), it is best to confirm availability in advance, especially if many students will need access.

Subject librarians have domain expertise in your discipline and are great resources to help design assignments for students of all levels. Arranging a guest lecture by a librarian for your class can be a great way to facilitate student success in research-based assignments. These sessions are more beneficial when they are tied directly to the assignment. Library tours, scavenger hunts, or orientations carried out independent from a specific assignment are less effective approaches.

For more information about subject librarians, including how to schedule an appointment, please visit our Meet Your Subject Specialist webpage.