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Faculty: Research Assignment Guidelines

Research Assignment Guidelines

Research assignments may prove difficult for students who have limited experience with conducting college-level research. Based on the extensive work of NIC library staff helping students with research assignments, we offer the following guidelines for effective assignment design.

  • Test the assignment before it goes live, to make sure that students will be able to find relevant information sources in the time period available to them to complete the assignment.

Example: If you are choosing a topic for the class to research, try first researching the topic yourself. For instance, if the topic has to do with a company’s financial performance, is there enough publicly available financial information that a student can easily access and use?

  • Build in effective instructions within the assignment.
  • Suggest effective research strategies

Example: If you have asked students to analyze a little-known poem, it may help to remind them that their task is not necessarily to find published critiques of the poem, as that may well be impossible. Rather, direct students to research the poet's work as a whole, his or her cultural milieu, etc., so that students can use that information to build their own critical analysis of the poem.

  • Require the use of appropriate sources; that is, do not limit students only to peer-reviewed journal articles if the assignment could more effectively be completed using other sources, such as websites, trade journals, etc.
  • Encourage students to contact you with questions about the assignment.
  • Solicit feedback about the assignment.

Example: Ask students whether they had trouble finding relevant materials, whether they understood the instructions, etc. Revise the assignment accordingly or provide constructive feedback to your program chair about the assignment.

Additional resources that may help with research assignment design include:

If you have questions about how to develop or revise a research assignment, please contact Jennifer Evans.

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