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Creating Research Assignments

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There are four components to a guided research assignment:

  • Clear expectations about source requirements
  • A clear rationale and context for resource requirements
  • Process-orientation
  • Library engagement

The following tool utilizes these components to assist you in ensuring your research assignment handouts offer students clear and helpful research guidance. Research assignments that include effective guidance teach students to research like scholars and provide them with the tools and support to do so.  

Use this grid as you design or review your research assignments. Find the descriptions in the grid that most accurately describe your assignment to 1) determine if there might be opportunities to provide students with more effective guidance and 2) find examples of what that guidance might look like.

As the number increases along the horizontal axis, so does the level of research guidance.


Research Guidance Grid for Assignment Design


Explanation/Definition of Sources and Expectations

Guidance Level (0) Guidance Level (1) Guidance Level (2) Guidance Level (3)
This assignment does not describe or explain sourcing expectations. Some general guidelines for evaluating a source's appropriateness to the assignment are given. All relevant qualities of acceptable sources are listed (e.g., peer-reviewed or popular or trade, primary or secondary, qualitative or quantitative, recency) All relevant qualities of acceptable sources are listed and clearly defined.
  Inexact quantities are given for the required number of sources (e.g., "several" or "an adequate number." The required number of sources is stated as a number or range of numbers The required number of sources is given as a range or the assignment gives a clear explanation of how a student will know when they have an adequate number of sources.
  Methods and tools for resource discovery are described in general terms (e.g., "use the library.") Methods and tools for resource discovery are described by broad type (e.g., "use a library database that includes scholarly articles.") Methods and tools for resource discovery are discussed and/or demonstrated in detail.

Rational and Context for Resource Requirements

Guidance Level (0) Guidance Level (1) Guidance Level (2) Guidance Level (3)
Resource requirements are neither linked to the assignment's learning objectives nor given any context-dependence. Resource requirements are described as having learning value (e.g., "It's important that you meet these requirements.") All resource requirements are linked to the assignment's stated learning objectives. Each resource requirement is linked to the assignment's stated learning objectives for reasons that are made clear.
  Contextual exceptions to the resource requirements are mentioned as possible. Contextually exceptional sourcing scenarios are discussed hypothetically. Students are invited to discuss any unique sourcing circumstances with the professor and/or librarian.


Guidance Level (0) Guidance Level (1) Guidance Level (2) Guidance Level (3)
The assignment doesn't address the process of research, only the final product.

The assignment acknowledges and perhaps even describes the research process but includes no components that require students show their engagement with the process.

The assignment is graded without particular consideration given to the quality of research.

Assignment includes at least one component that requires students to make the process of research explicit and is evaluated by the professor.

Examples include:

*Annotated bibliographies
"Paper proposals
*Literature reviews
*Research journals
*Online group discussion forums
*Wikis that show process

Process components require students to apply information literacy skills that are:

*A portion of the assignment's final grade
*Evaluated in advance of the final product to allow student to act on feedback and guidance from the professor

Library Engagement

Guidance Level (0) Guidance Level (1) Guidance Level (2) Guidance Level (3)
No engagement with the library resources or liaison librarian. Students are given general instructions on library tools (e.g., databases, call number ranges, etc.) and resources, possibly including the name of the appropriate librarian. Discipline-specific resources are identified (e.g., library guides, disciplinary databases.) The most relevant library tools are identified and demonstrated to students in class.
                                                                                       The liaison librarian is consulted for suggestions and possible collaboration. If the liaison librarian is consulted or is teaching a session, they are made familiar with the assignment and is able to make recommendations accordingly. 

"Research Guidance Rubric" by Pete Coco and Hazel McClure is licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License