Creating Effective Research AssignmentsBridging the Gap Between Studentsand InformationAnthony HolderiedReference Librarian
Topics for Consideration…•   Purpose of research assignments•   Preparing students•   Characteristics of effective assignm...
Effective research assignments…•   Have a specific understood purpose•   Relate to subject matter or objectives•   Lead to...
Preparing Your StudentsTell them WHEN, HOW AND WHY!Schedule an orientationList of specific resources – inform your librari...
Characteristics of Good Assignments1.   Clarity2.   Emphasizes process over product3.   Correct and unambiguous terminolog...
Pitfalls to Avoid…• Assumption of knowledge• Resources not available• Giving everyone the same assignment• The dreaded sca...
What’s the deal with electronicresources?Internet or Web or Online (google, bing, yahoo)VS.Electronic Resource or Database...
Evaluative techniques…• Currency: The timeliness of the Web page• Relevance/Coverage: The uniqueness of the content and it...
Limiting ‘Web’ sources can…1. Force students outside of their comfort zones2. Require them to use critical evaluation skil...
Role of the Library• Create course guides• Offer research assistance• Schedule a library orientation6.Provide assignment s...
Types of Research Assignments1. Use the library reference collection (subject specific   encyclopedias, dictionaries, and ...
Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Keep a "research log" documenting where information was   found, analyze what sear...
Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1.    Search for a topic and compare results from a general     Internet search engin...
Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Prepare a literature review on a particular topic.2. Research a controversial topi...
Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Compare the discussion of a particular research study in   the popular and scholar...
Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Prepare a nomination of a person or group for a particular   Nobel Prize or other ...
Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1.   Research a particular company, organization, research lab, etc. as     preparati...
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	Creating Effective Research Assignments: Bridging the Gap Between Students and Information
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 Creating Effective Research Assignments: Bridging the Gap Between Students and Information

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  • Thank you for attending today’s workshop which is entitled “…” The purpose of this workshop is primarily to share ideas amongst ourselves regarding the best ways to create affective research assignments. My perspective as a librarian might be a little different then yours as an instructor, but essentially we’re working together to achieve the same outcome – which is student success. The reason I decided to do a workshop on research assignments is that I was doing some research recently and came across a lot of really good tips for creating better research assignments, not only for newer instructors that don’t have as much experience creating research assignments, but also for those that have been teaching for quite a while who might be looking for some new ideas or ways to spice things up. Perhaps there are some out there who just haven’t thought about changing your research assignment in a while, so maybe it’s time to revisit how you are asking your students to do research. Above all else I just thought this would be a good way to kick off the semester. How many of you are planning to assign a research project this semester. How many are in the form of an individual essay? Group presentation? Other?
  • The following is a list of things that I thought I would touch on from the perspective of a librarian who works with a lot of students in seeing the research process through from beginning to end. Many of the items I will be discussing are tips I’ve found and used from other librarians and faculty members, but also some personal observations. And it can be informal as well, with you participating and asking questions and sharing ideas. The point is to discuss what we can do to make our students more information literate, i.e. better researchers. So this is a list of things I might discuss regarding research and our library, and then of course feel free to add any topics that you would like mentioned as we go along.
  • Research assignments should of course not be assigned as busy work, but rather as an engaging device used to get students to think and make connections to things and be able to articulate their ideas in a form that others can read and learn from. 2. All assignment should have objects or tie into a subject or idea, otherwise what’s the point of doing it at all? We’re here to learn, right? 3. I think this is obvious – if students remember a certain small percentage of everything they hear, but of course they remember even that much more of what they say and write. 4. This is important because without exposure to a variety of sources, students will think that all things in life can be learned through a google search without stopping to realize how accurate or relevant that information is. 5. In this digital age of information, a lot of us suffer from information overload. Evaluation is critical. I would say this is one of the huge key points that we need to emphasize in education today because there is so much information out there that unless they are trained to critically evaluate the content of sources they will never really be able to distinguish the truth from nonsense. 6. Avoiding plagiarism is one of the toughest things that students encounter in research. Why? Because they have not practiced enough and this skill has not been reinforced at the high school level. I actually had a student say this to me just this summer, “Why don’t other people have to cite what I say to them when they go and tell someone something that I just told them”. Just kind of left me with my head shaking because he seemed like an otherwise bright individual.
  • I know it’s hard to believe, but over the course of my career teaching information skills when I’m invited to a class to teach research skills I ask students if they know when their assignment is due, and they’ll say ‘what assignment’? Now I know that some of this is due to lack of diligence on the part of the student, but in many cases the instructor has simply not given ample time to prepare for getting ready to do a research project. So it’s important to give them plenty of advance warning, how much of their grade this assignment is dependent upon, and when it will be due. The bottom line is that if students don’t have enough time to understand what their purpose and importance of the assignment is, the chances they will perform well and put a lot of effort into it will be low. I’ll talk more about these later, but if you’re planning to involve library resources that many students have not been exposed to yet – and most of them will have not – please set up an orientation so that a librarian can give them the proper guidance and skills to navigate these resources. Many students will be little overwhelmed especially if this is their first college research assignment, so it’s always a good idea to have a professional introduce them to resources and give them a recognizable face to ask for help in the library. Every semester I have many students that come to my office seeking guidance and I know their very appreciative of the fact that they know where they can hunt me down! Sometimes research assignments involve specific lists of things that you would like students to read or watch. It’s always a good idea to provide a list to us in the library so that we can make sure we have a copy and if we don’t we can be ready to try and get it from another library if someone needs it in a pinch. Is there a specific set of encyclopedias you would like them to look through, a specific journal or database you want them to use, or even a movie you would like them to watch.
  • 1.So in talking about what makes a good research assignment, I came across this list of characteristics from the university of maryland. I think most instructors are pretty good with expressing the makeup of the assignment, that is the main content and the objectives involved. The paper is x number of pages long and will make up %25 of your grade – that sort of thing. This is often better written down than given orally for obvious reasons. I think we get into trouble further down the road when we talk about specifics. 2. A good assignment will also emphasize process over product. Of course we would like everyone to get an A and write a superb essay, but when you emphasize the process of research – defining your topic, casting a wide net of sources using a variety of formats, critically evaluating each source for credibility and usefulness, and then the synthesis and incorporation of your sources in a meaningful and ethical manner, students learn much more than just how to put a paragraph together. 3. I think what is meant mostly by unambigouos terminology is regarding the different avenues of resources. And to that end I think this plays a huge role in student success. I’ll talk more about this in a few minutes. 4. Currency simply relates to the timeliness of the assignment. Is the topic relevant to the student? Is it archaic and irrelevant? Is this a contemporary assignment that the student can relate to in their own personal lives? 5. Are you allowing enough time to complete the entire research process? Have you done the work yourself? 6. Does anyone have any characteristics that they would add to this list.
  • 1. One thing I always stress with instructors is that it is dangerous to make assumptions as to the research skills of your students. You never know who you’re getting on that roll, right? The non-traditional student who hasn’t written a paper in 30 years and doesn’t own a computer. The 4 year transfer tech saavy student who can’t put together two sentences. The student coming from the rural disadvanted district who was never taught how to cite sources that weren’t from the Internet. You need to try hard to learn your audience early so that you can make appropriate determinations of what they know and what they do not know. 2. Some instructors require certain texts of videos to be used in assignments, which is fine. But many times the list has not been updated or reflects the changing of library resources. Books go missing, get stolen, or damaged. Databases and magazine titles get dropped because of lack of use or cost. So make sure that the items that you’re planning to use ARE in fact available to students. Additionally, if you’re planning on requiring all students in your class to use a specific video or book, please place a copy on reserve so that everyone can watch/read it. Don’t expect that everyone has access to the items, especially if they’re in the general collection. Even more importantly, sometimes students come up with topics that just really aren’t that good of a topic and there isn’t a whole lot out there on this topic, especially issues that are very current that there is not much literature available on yet. Just keep in mind that approving topics like these will usually result in high levels of frustration for the student by which they may just end of having to scratch that topic and start over again, thus wasting valuable time. 3. I’ve never been a big fan of giving everyone in the class the same research topic. Giving everyone the same assignment is a sure fire way to make sure that half of the students or less will have access to materials dealing with that subject. Some students will come straight to the library and check out 6 or 7 books on a topic, leaving virtually nothing left for the rest of the class. Take this into consideration, and allow a for a variety of topics in order to avoid a dearth of available materials. 4. I know this won’t be popular, but giving a scavenger hunt assignment is essentially equivalent the insulting of your students’ intelligence. Sending them on an errand to find or look up things merely describes the ability to follow simple directions. You might as well send them to Wal-Mart to find the cheapest toilet paper. And usually a scavenger hunt ultimately ends with a librarian doing most of the work without any meaningful research being done. In order to learn useful information skills, students need to look for, select, and evaluate materials on their own, thus learning how to apply this knowledge and develop critical thinking skills.
  • Let’s have a quiz here – who can tell us the difference between an internet source and an electronic resource or database? Internet or web or online usually refers to going on to the internet and using a search engine to find free websites. Electronic Resources or database refers to a subscription based database of magazine, newspaper, and journal articles that are paid for with library funds, and thus are not free. These are considered credible resources because they come from legitimate publications and periodicals opposed to websites that may or may not have editorial filters. Thus, when you ask your students to use X number of web or electronic resources you are confusing them by not specifying which type of resource you are really expecting them to use. I cannot stress enough that it is a really guide idea to limit the number of strictly Internet sources that students use. The main reason being if they are not required to use more scholarly sources, they simply won’t. And they won’t have the experience of reading and synthesizing something that is quality literature then they won’t get in the habit of having higher expectations as consumers of information.
  • Let’s have a quiz here – who can tell us the difference between an internet source and an electronic resource or database? Internet or web or online usually refers to going on to the internet and using a search engine to find free websites. Electronic Resources or database refers to a subscription based database of magazine, newspaper, and journal articles that are paid for with library funds, and thus are not free. These are considered credible resources because they come from legitimate publications and periodicals opposed to websites that may or may not have editorial filters. Thus, when you ask your students to use X number of web or electronic resources you are confusing them by not specifying which type of resource you are really expecting them to use. I cannot stress enough that it is a really guide idea to limit the number of strictly Internet sources that students use. The main reason being if they are not required to use more scholarly sources, they simply won’t. And they won’t have the experience of reading and synthesizing something that is quality literature then they won’t get in the habit of having higher expectations as consumers of information.
  • By comfort zone we mean having to learn and navigate new resources that are more complex and require a higher level of thinking as opposed to a simple internet search. Students will use whatever sources you let them, so the more websites they use, the less chance they recognize the difference between good sources and bad sources. We want students to come to the library and we want them to ask questions. It’s difficult to learn it all on your own if you don’t get help and by bringing students out of their comfort zones, they are more likely to reach out to us for assistance.
  • We can and would like to create custom resources designed to point your students straight to the good sources tailored around their topics or theme. We offer individual research assistance to anyone that wants it and I am happy to have students come by my office and ask me questions about their research projects – I already many of you that send them my way – and you know who you are!
  • Let’s talk about some different types of research assignments next. If you’re looking for some different ideas outside of the standard argumentative or informative essay, you may want to try some of the following ideas. Julie trotter does this with her RDG classes in regards to african american history. The students come in and get really engrossed with looking for information on people, places, and events that happened during the civil rights era. This one is a no brainer. If you want students to become proficient at citing sources – force them to practice!
  • 3. This is a really good strategy for kicking off the research process. A number of english instructors used this when I was a librarian at UNC-Pembroke. 4. This is a great exercise for doing the same thing with a group project.
  • 5. What this does is help to compare what might be considered questionable content with literature that is deemed authoritative so that students can see the differences.
  • 8. A literature review should probably be reserved for students that have graduated past freshman english and are now in more subject specific discipline courses. 9. Great idea here. Students will be familiar with newspapers and magazines, but what about academic journals?
  • 13. This is really one of the most important in my view. Think of all of the preconceived ideas about social issues that our students are coming into the classroom with. They got these views in the home, from peers, from the media and accepted them as gospel. How about we get them to study the other side in order to become familiar with the other argument. That is one great way to teach students to think, instead of just reciting information from sources.
  • Let’s talk about some different types of research assignments next. If you’re looking for some different ideas outside of the standard argumentative or informative essay, you may want to try some of the following ideas.
  • Let’s talk about some different types of research assignments next. If you’re looking for some different ideas outside of the standard argumentative or informative essay, you may want to try some of the following ideas.
  •  Creating Effective Research Assignments: Bridging the Gap Between Students and Information

    1. 1. Creating Effective Research AssignmentsBridging the Gap Between Studentsand InformationAnthony HolderiedReference Librarian
    2. 2. Topics for Consideration…• Purpose of research assignments• Preparing students• Characteristics of effective assignments• Avoiding research pitfalls• Use of library resources/orientations• Types of assignments• New website• Your ideas
    3. 3. Effective research assignments…• Have a specific understood purpose• Relate to subject matter or objectives• Lead to increased understanding of subject• Bring awareness to variety of information sources• Teach students to select and evaluate (overload)• Reinforce habits of ethical scholarship
    4. 4. Preparing Your StudentsTell them WHEN, HOW AND WHY!Schedule an orientationList of specific resources – inform your librarian!
    5. 5. Characteristics of Good Assignments1. Clarity2. Emphasizes process over product3. Correct and unambiguous terminology4. Currency (relevant)5. Reasonable time frame
    6. 6. Pitfalls to Avoid…• Assumption of knowledge• Resources not available• Giving everyone the same assignment• The dreaded scavenger hunt!
    7. 7. What’s the deal with electronicresources?Internet or Web or Online (google, bing, yahoo)VS.Electronic Resource or Database (NC Live, Ebsco)What kind of ‘consumer’ do we want them to be?
    8. 8. Evaluative techniques…• Currency: The timeliness of the Web page• Relevance/Coverage: The uniqueness of the content and its importance to you• Authority: The source of the Web page• Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information• Purpose/Objectivety: Why does the Web site exist? Is it biased or prejudiced?
    9. 9. Limiting ‘Web’ sources can…1. Force students outside of their comfort zones2. Require them to use critical evaluation skills3. Get them to ask for help!and of course…get them to use better sources!
    10. 10. Role of the Library• Create course guides• Offer research assistance• Schedule a library orientation6.Provide assignment specifics7.Prepare students8.Topic development9.Point of need
    11. 11. Types of Research Assignments1. Use the library reference collection (subject specific encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks, etc.) to discover background information on a research topic. Compare this information to a search in a library databases on the same topic.3. Quote and cite sources in MLA or APA citation style to give proper credit and avoid plagiarism.
    12. 12. Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Keep a "research log" documenting where information was found, analyze what search techniques worked and what didnt, and discuss how the material found affected your thinking on the topic.2. Working in groups, prepare a guide that introduces others to information sources on a topic or in a subject field. Use books, articles, and encyclopedia entries available from the library.
    13. 13. Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Search for a topic and compare results from a general Internet search engine (Google), and a database of scholarly journal articles (EBSCO/NCLIVE).2. Prepare a bibliography of books, journals and web sites with evaluative annotations.4. Prepare a guide to the information sources on a particular subject. This may be presented as a group project to the rest of the class.
    14. 14. Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Prepare a literature review on a particular topic.2. Research a controversial topic using a variety of sources. Discuss how the different types of sources (e.g. newspapers, websites, news magazines, academic journals, academic discussion lists) treat the topic.4. Compare how two different disciplines discuss the same topic by finding articles from the journal literature of each discipline.
    15. 15. Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Compare the discussion of a particular research study in the popular and scholarly press.3. Compare popular and scholarly articles on the same topic in terms of content, bias, style, audience.5. Compare two journal articles that discuss the same topic from different points of view.7. Read an editorial and find facts to support or contradict.
    16. 16. Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Prepare a nomination of a person or group for a particular Nobel Prize or other significant award. In addition to defending their nomination, students would be required to learn about the prize, criteria for the award, etc.3. Research the publications and career of a prominent scholar. The assignment might require biographical information, a bibliography of publications, and analysis of the individual in their field of research.
    17. 17. Types of Research Assignments (cont.)1. Research a particular company, organization, research lab, etc. as preparation for a (hypothetical) interview.3. Evaluate a web site based on the web evaluation criteria of accuracy, authority, bias, reliability, and currency.5. Compare a number of web sites representing government, personal, commercial, advocacy, and scholarly sites.7. Examine the treatment of a controversial issue in several sources including a newspaper editorial, scholarly journals, periodicals from different disciplines, and trade or association websites.
    18. 18. New Library Web Page

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