Library Activities

Breaking down a research assignment

One effective way of teaching research skills is to divide a research assignment into its component parts. The requirement of completing each step and handing it in for approval motivates students to become familiar with the steps. Some professors make each step in the process a part of the final grade (e.g., annotated bibliography, 10 points) thereby emphasizing the importance of each step.

For example, a research paper might be divided into the following steps, which must be handed in at intervals throughout the semester.

  1. Define your topic using appropriate articles, class readings, or scholarly reviews of the literature for background information.
  2. Develop a list of relevant keywords and phrases to search in the library catalogs. Record which keywords best identify relevant resources and explain why.
  3. Use databases to find books, articles and web sites that are relevant to your topic. Complete an annotated bibliography explaining why each resource is appropriate for your paper and how it will support the thesis.
  4. Hand in a rough draft, the instructor's critique of which will include an evaluation of the types and appropriateness of information used.