Use these strategies to write great library assignments that give your students a successful library research experience.
- Writing the Assignment
- Planning the Library Resources
- Alternatives to the Traditional Research Paper
- Internet and Web Sources
Writing the Assignment:
- Do the assignment yourself. Make sure the SCC library has the resources you require. Check LOIS for books and the Databases for articles. Ask a librarian if you need assistance.
- Send a copy of your assignment to the librarian for your department in advance. Library collections are constantly changing and what was available in previous semesters may have changed. The librarians will also have your assignment in mind when selecting new materials.
- Give students the assignment in writing and ask them to take it with them to the library. Librarians can be more helpful to students who are confused about terminology or who have forgotten to bring the assignment with them.
- Create real-life projects that encourage students to find and apply information to real circumstances. E.g. "Construct a demographic model of your neighborhood that includes socioeconomic data and municipal services. Discuss the relationship between the data and available services."
- Avoid scavenger hunts. Librarians often must give students the answers.
- Use clear language to define the task: Does your use of "library computer" mean the online catalog, a database, or something else? Do your students understand what "peer-reviewed journal" and "primary sources" mean in your discipline? If you recommend specific books and journals, write out their full titles.
Planning the Library Resources
- Require a variety of resources including reference books, journals, newspapers, subject encyclopedias, library databases, videos, and more.
- Teach evaluation strategies and require that students evaluate the quality of all resources, particularly web sites.
- Address plagiarism. Show students how easy it is for instructors to locate their sources in books, databases, and on the Internet.
- Stress the fact that research takes time and encourage students to start early. Good quality web-based resources are not always faster to find and use than books and articles. Or the "perfect" book may be checked out until next week or located at another library.
- Emphasize the use of SCC library resources. If you require the use of materials at CSUS or UC Davis, be sure your students understand this. Librarians can help your students look up materials in off-campus catalogs, provide maps and directions, or assist with interlibrary loan when appropriate.
- Avoid giving a large class the same topic. All the books may soon be checked out. Allow variations on the theme, with instructor approval.
- Put limited materials on reserve or eReserve if several students need the same item. This includes textbooks, sample tests, readings, and private copies. Contact Yolanda Escobar (email@example.com) or bring materials to the circulation desk in advance of assignments.
- Don't assume that students have used a college library. Encourage your students to attend a drop-in orientation at their convenience or schedule a course-related library instruction for your class using the online request form. Contact Sue Chen (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you need assistance. (Faculty can sign up for drop-in orientations, too - get flex credit!)
Alternatives to the Traditional Research Paper
- Develop an annotated bibliography on a topic.
- Compare and contrast discussions of the same topic in a scholarly journal and a popular magazine.
- Identify and analyze key issues in a discipline, or compare the way two different disciplines handle the same topic.
If you tell students not to use the Internet, do explain the difference between "free" Internet sources and the library's subscription databases, such as Academic Search Premier and CQ Researcher. The SCC library databases are accessed via the Internet but they contain authoritative full-text articles from print magazines, newspapers, journals, and reference books. Library databases provide first-class research content. In addition, many free web sites (e.g. www.census.gov, findlaw.org) contain reliable content.