Creating Successful Research Skills Assignments: Avoid Common Problems

Problems to Avoid

Avoid these common problems.

The most common research skills assignment is the research paper or project, which helps students learn to synthesize, analyze and interpret information using appropriate disciplinary content and methodology. In and of themselves, however, research papers may not help students learn the many intricacies of research that go into completing a good paper.

Research skills assignments help students answer the following sorts of questions:

  • If you tell your students not to "use the internet" clarify what you really mean. The library catalog and databases live on the internet, so what you probably mean is "find scholarly books and articles using the library catalog or databases, or Google Scholar."

  • Don't assign an entire class to do research using a single item. 
  • Don't require students to use materials we don't own--you may suggest a purchase in advance, and we will do our best to meet your needs. 
  • Don't assign excessively vague or general topics, e.g. "women in the Middle East" without guidance on narrowing the focus.
  • Unless you have consulted with librarians, don't send students on treasure hunts looking for library trivia. Students find these frustrating, and it is usually a library employee who does all of the work.
  • Don't assign complex research assignments too late in the semester: let students have time to consider their topics and engage in the entire research process.

Subject Guide

Donna Ziegenfuss's picture
Donna Ziegenfuss
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