Researchers at Project Information Literacy at the University of Washington found in a review of 191 course-related research assignments many handouts do not offer useful guidance on conducting research (Head, A. J. & Einsenberg, M. B. (2010). Assigning inquiry: How handouts for research assignments guide today’s college students. Project Information Literacy Progress Report. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Information iSchool). Their study states that first-year students apply the strategies they learned in high school, focus on the length of the paper rather than its content, and that 84% of students have difficulty starting assignments while 66% of students have difficulty defining a topic. With regards to writing abilities, the study indicated that students:
Assignment Design Checklist
|Describe Approach||Synthesis, analysis, argument, evaluation? Include research journal? Discuss academic integrity and “patch” writing. Is topic open or pre-approved? Collaboration allowed ? Expected length?|
State how the assignment relates to course material. Consider both "big picture" and "information-finding" context.
Describe learning outcomes including those for information literacy and writing skill development.
|Scaffold Process||Split assignment into tasks to give feedback at each stage. Example: find five sources and create research log - analyze a single article - class sets evaluation criteria for websites.|
|Offer Research Strategies||Discuss research strategies, finding tools, and appropriate web resources. What is a good starting point? Google Scholar or a discipline-specific database?|
|Provide Sources Checklist||
Specify useful types of resources (clarify “web” vs. “online” resources). Is Wikipedia acceptable? Tools to identify new vocabulary and terminology? Discuss scholarly versus popular, etc.
|Set Citation Style||Name citation style and give link to tutorial on library website. Use citation management software if extended research involved.|
|Share Assessment||How is the assignment and the research process assessed? Rubrics are helpful especially when they are reviewed before the assignment so students know how they will be graded.|
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