Creating Effective Library Research Assignments

The EKU Library Instruction program is committed to assignment specific, topic specific library instruction.  Our ultimate goal is to produce students who are information literate. Unfortunately, many students come to campus as functionally information illiterate.  Because this is true, library assignments should be designed to efficiently meet educational goals, and promote the growth of an information literate, lifelong learner.

Educational Objectives

To ensure that students gain from library research assignments, it is important that they understand the educational objectives that you have set. A few sample objectives include the ability of students to:

  • Determine and develop a suitable research topic.
  • Select and employ the best print and online sources to locate and retrieve relevant and timely materials.
  • Distinguish and evaluate popular and scholarly sources, regardless of format.
  • Quote and cite information sources to give proper credit and avoid plagiarism.

Flexible & Active Designs

The more narrow the library assignment, the more unlikely it is that students will be able to actually retrieve the information that they need. As such, active learning and flexibility are important. This approach can be achieved by a variety of methods and research assignments. For example, students may do one or more of the following :

  • Select their own paper topic (as opposed to a single, assigned topic). This promotes active learning, and makes the student responsible for ensuring that sufficient sources are, in fact, available.
  • Compare and contrast various information formats (books, periodicals, and web sites) and evaluate the content of all three for the selected topic.
  • Prepare an annotated bibliography of scholarly (or popular) information sources on their topic.
  • Keep a log of their research process, what they found, and how it influenced how they thought about their topic, and the information sources that they used.

Things to Avoid in a Library Assignment

Having students track down esoteric  information that may be found in one source (or less) at EKU Libraries is to be avoided.  Specifically, scavenger hunts frustrate and confuse students when they can't find a purpose or a source for the questions. These types of assignments often end up putting the librarians through their paces, but rarely, if ever, do they facilitate student learning.  

Customized Library Instruction: Search Strategies & Library Resources

There are several quality sources and effective search strategies that will help students navigate their information universe.  To address the complexity of these information sources and search strategies, EKU Libraries offers hands-on, assignment- and topic-specific library instruction. Employing up-to-date technologies, librarian instructors teach effective search strategies, key information sources, and how to evaluate what is retrieved. As a result, students will be able to obtain the sufficient quality and quantity of information that they need, and not just one or two Internet sites of questionable worth.


Adapted with permission from the Library, University of California, Berkeley.