Information Literacy Assignments
The following are general suggestions
for designing successful library resource use assignments that will produce desired
learning outcomes AND avoid frustrating your students.
1. Browse the library collection in advance for
coverage and holdings.
As with any library collection, our subject holdings are stronger in
some areas than in others. The collections at Appalachian State and
Western Carolina Universities, easily accessible to our students via ABC
Express Service borrowing, can help
fill in gaps.
2. Check for availability of
If you plan to use a specific resource, it's best to make sure there haven't been
changes in its format or location, and that you are providing students
with the most current, correct
Online resources are particularly fluid and can change from one day to the
next. If many students will be using one source, it's a good idea to
put the material on reserve.
3. Be clear about the purpose and
format of your assignment.
Specific information about the format, length, style (MLA, APA,
other), acceptable resources, and purpose can help clarify the
assignment. If possible, provide examples showing what you expect.
4. Don't assume your students
already know the basics.
Most entering freshman have never had experience with the wide range
of resources a university library has to offer. Library tools that
faculty are accustomed to using, such as a periodical index, are a new
concept to first year students. Think back to your own student days
for perspective, and keep in mind that good research skills take time and
practice to develop.
5. Select appropriate,
Even if you plan to let students choose their own topics, it's helpful
to give them guidelines. A large, general topic can seem
unmanageable for students. Topics that are too narrow can prove frustrating due to the
lack of coverage in the literature and limited library holdings.
strongly advise caution when assigning local topics (frequently only covered in the
local newspaper), or very current topics (which haven't yet made it into
scholarly research journals) -- such information is
often very difficult to find, and ultimately frustrates both students
6. Define what you mean by "the
There's an important, obvious difference between scholarly journals and
academic databases, paid
for through a library subscription, and freely available
consumer-information web sites.
If you plan to restrict student use of the latter, articulate your
assignment parameters clearly and carefully. Otherwise students may
the impression that ALL online resources (including valuable scholarly
journals and academic database resources) are strictly off-limits. Many
useful academic materials are increasingly available via electronic online
7. Provide opportunities for
students to evaluate their materials.
The frequently overlooked, but most important component of good
research, is the reflection and evaluation that take place while gathering
8. Break down a large
assignment into smaller, incremental parts.
Think of it as a plan of action for students new to the research
process. For example, a large research paper can be divided into the
following parts: selecting a topic, submitting an initial bibliography,
submitting a revised bibliography and rough draft, and submitting the
final paper. This can also help cut down on procrastination and plagiarism.
9. Test the assignment yourself.
You might encounter unforeseen pitfalls during a trial run.
Consult with a librarian, and/or schedule library instruction
Whether you want specific advice on how to create your own effective
library resource use assignment, or just someone to glance at your
finished product, our librarians would be glad to collaborate with you.
Contact your subject
library liaison to schedule a formal consultation, or contact the Research Services
Desk (251-6111) for further suggestions.
Formal library instruction sessions are most helpful when geared
towards a specific assignment and scheduled close to the time students
will begin their work.
NOTE: We strongly suggest that
you contact your subject
library liaison no later than two weeks prior to any desired
instruction session date to ensure adequate preparation time and classroom
availability. Please have a range of possible dates in mind to ensure library instructor availability and classroom scheduling.
For specific assignment
ideas, see Sample
Information Literacy Assignments on the InfoLit @ Ramsey website.
Adapted from Suggestions
for Planning and Creating Effective Library Assignments Pollak
Library, California State University, Fullerton (c)2001.