Skip to Main Content

Information Literacy: Assignment Design

About Assignment Design

Designing research assignments that at once provide students with clear guidelines and challenge them to apply critical thinking is not a simple task. MCLA’s librarians can discuss your research assignments with you and explore how the assignment design can foster optimal learning.


To schedule a meeting with a librarian please contact us via email, phone, or in person in the Library (1st floor).  

Email:  Pamela Contakos Phone: 662-5542


Alternative Assignments

The links below will provide ideas on creating nontraditional assignments that integrate information literacy.

Example Research Assignments

Planning for Research Assignments

The below suggestions can help to ensure student success with research assignments.

1. Assign

Assign students unique topics to be sure that there are adequate resources available from the library and to promote individual research skills. See the Alternative Assignments section below for ideas on creating assignments that meet Information Literacy learning outcomes.

  2. Consult

Consult a librarian for assistance with developing assignments that meet your learning objectives and incorporate information literacy outcomes.

  3. Search

Search library resources to be sure there is quality information available on the topics you have assigned.

  4. Schedule

Schedule library instruction to help familiarize your students with the physical and virtual library resources. They may not have the skills required to effectively complete your assignments. If time is an issue, please consult our Research Guides or contact us for instruction suggestions.

  5.  Inform

Inform a Reference librarian of impending assignments so that we can prepare library materials and properly address student questions. If the librarians have copies of syllabi and assignment sheets we can better assist students throughout the semester.

  6. Encourage

Encourage students to seek help from a librarian in-person or through one of our reference services (email, telephone, and in-person).

Adapted from Seminole State College Library's information literacy guide. Thank you to their librarians and to the Seminole State faculty of the 2011-12 Library Committee for permission to reuse this material.  

Tips for Assignment Design

• Identify Learning Goals and Objectives Related to the Research Process.  
What research skills would you like students to develop through the assignment? How will the learning objectives and their importance be communicated in the assignment? 

• Be Clear about Your Expectations.  
Your students may not have prior experience with academic research and resources, so clear and explicit assignment guidelines are essential. State (in writing) the assignment's purpose and the role of research in it. Also provide details such as assignment length, acceptable types of sources, specific resources for locating appropriate sources, and citation format. Define terminology which may be unclear  to students, such as "database" or "peer reviewed." It may also be valuable to discuss how research is produced and disseminated in your discipline and how you expect your students to participate in academic discourse in the context of your class. 

• Scaffold the Assignment. 
Breaking a complex research assignment down into a sequence of smaller, more manageable parts has a number of benefits: it models how to approach a research question and how to manage time effectively, it gives students the opportunity to focus on and master key research skills, it provides opportunities for feedback, and it can be an effective deterrent to plagiarism. 

• Devote Class Time to Discussion of the Assignment in Progress.  
Periodic discussions in class can help students reflect on the research process and its importance, encourage questions, and help students develop a sense that what they are doing is a transferable process that they can use for other assignments.

• Provide Clear Criteria for Assessment.  
Make explicit how the assignment will be evaluated. This criteria should align with your expectations for the assignment.

Rubrics can be effective for communicating assessment criteria to students. (The AAC&U Information Literacy VALUE Rubric offers one framework for evaluating research assignments. )

 Test Your Assignment.  
In testing an assignment yourself, you may uncover practical roadblocks to conducting the research (e.g., too few copies of a book for too many students, a source is no longer available online). Librarians can help with this process (e.g., suggest strategies for mitigating roadblocks, place books on reserve, suggest other resources, design customized supporting materials like handouts or web pages).  

• Collaborate with Librarians.  
Librarians can help you design an effective research assignment. We also offer library instruction that is tailored to your students and their assignments.  Email:  Pamela Contakos Phone: 662-5542

Adapted from the handout "Tips for Designing Library Research Assignments" developed by Sarah McDaniel, of the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries. Many thanks to her for permission to reuse this resource.