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Leading Students Beyond Google: Effective Research Assignments for the 21st Century

Issues to Address & Guiding Principals

Examining the 2010 data in conjunction with observations by MJC library faculty, it is clear the following issues are a priority and need to be addressed in terms of student information competency:

  • "Getting Started"
    • Understanding assignment
    • Selecting and developing meaningful topics
    • Thesis development
    • Sifting through copious amounts of information
  • Academic research vs. personal information retrieval
    • Dependence on the "Google/Wiki" approach
    • Academic appropriateness
    • Ethical and legal considerations (plagiarism)
  • Content vs. format issues
  • Knowing when research is done

 Below are some guiding principals for designing effective research assignments

  • Design assignments with clear outcomes and communicate those outcomes in writing
  • Understand various levels of skill and experience
  • Define your terms even if they seem obvious
  • Focus on relevancy and quality of information over its format 
  • Scaffold whenever possible
  • Test assignments
  • Get feedback on assignments

For more detailed information, please access the document below.

Assignment Ideas

When instructors think of research assignments, often its the ubiquitous research paper that comes to mind. Research papers are a wonderful way for students to build and demonstrate their information competency skills, but they aren't appropriate for all classes. Here is a list of ideas for assignments that address some of the crucial areas of need, plus links to a few sites that have many more to choose from.

  1. Have students brainstorm a potential list of topics relevant to the curriculum and/or their own lives.  Ask them to elaborate on 3-4 of the topics in terms of why it is relevant to them, what they already know about the topic, and what they would like to know more about.
  2. Require that students locate, access, and read an overview of their topic. Require them to summarize the overview, then comment on how the article may have confirmed or expanded what they already know about their topic, and what new information they gleaned, and what questions might have been raised concerning their topic.
  3. Have students develop a simple set of research questions. Use the Who, What, When, Why, Where format, or visit the Developing Research Questions research guide for more format ideas.
  4. Compare/Contrast two different types of sources on their topic. Good pairings: magazine article/journal article; Wikipedia article/article from published reference book; .gov web page/.com web page.
  5. Find 1-3 sources of information on their topic and discuss the authority, objectivity, and currency of the source. Bonus: cite each source!