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Information Literacy Lab for Instructors

Resources to assist faculty and instructors with integrating information literacy into their courses.

About Library Assignments

It's very common for instructors to give their students a library assignment to help them get acquainted with library resources. If you're considering this, here are some things to consider to make your library assignment one that promotes good research practices to your students.

  • Contact your subject librarian. They can offer advice about the assignment. Also, they will share the assignment with our reference staff in advance so we can better assist students with it.
  • Verify the library holdings. Make sure that items you expect your students to find are actually available in the library's collections. Also remember Main Stacks items may be loaned out, so your students may not be able to consult physical copies of specific items.
  • Avoid treasure hunts. Most library research doesn't involve tracking down some obscure, hard to find source. So why model an assignment around that premise? A good library assignment will accurately model the work students will eventually do on their own.
  • Don't focus on format. When left to their own devices, researchers will use the best information available, regardless of the format in which it's published. A good, concise journal article can be as valuable as a full length book. An encyclopedia article or a film can lead students down all sorts of interesting paths.
  • Don't get bogged down by electronic v. print. Demanding your students find a print journal article places artificial constraints on the research process. Today's researchers are unconcerned with this distinction. In fact, students will probably be less likely to continue using the library if they feel the process is so convoluted.
  • Encourage your students to seek help. Talking to librarians and library staff is an essential step in good research. These folks have specialized skills to help locate all the best resources. Discouraging students from getting assistance in the library makes them think that they are all alone in the process, which is never actually the case.
  • Make it enjoyable. Library research isn't supposed to be painful. Students who have a positive introduction to the library will be more likely to persevere when things become more challenging in the future.

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