Designing Successful Library Research Assignments

Students often come to the library feeling frustrated and confused about assignments requiring library research. After many years of assisting students with library assignments, both successful and not, NDSU librarians have some tips to share.

Explain the purpose of the library research assignment.

  • What should the student learn from the assignment?
  • How does this assignment relate to the course objectives?

Students need your guidance when developing their research topics.

  • Provide examples of topics that are appropriate in scope for the assignment
  • Give feedback to students as they begin to develop and refine their topics

Provide the assignment in writing.

  • Indicate the numbers and kinds of sources (popular or academic) required, indicate whether Internet sources are allowable, specify the required length, the expected format, etc.

Become acquainted with the NDSU Libraries’ resources and be sure that your assignment is appropriate for this collection.

  • Some questions are difficult to answer with our resources – particularly if you tell students to use only books.
  • Do not assign the same topic to large groups if there are limited library resources. We are happy to help you assess the amount and quality of materials we have on a particular topic.

Student use of online resources:

  • It can be confusing for students when “Internet” or “Web” sources are forbidden - students sometimes think this bans them from using journal articles from library databases since they are “online”