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Mulford Library Services & Resources for Health Science Faculty

Information on specialized library services and resources to meet the research and instruction needs of faculty

Creating Effective Library Assignments

Assignments using information resources is a practical, hands-on way for students to develop life-long learning skills. To take full advantage of this opportunity, it is important to assign an effective assignment, whether it is a research paper, an annotated bibliography, or a set of exercises. (For more information about alternatives to the term paper, see Assessing Information Skills). This page provides a list of issues to consider when developing an assignment using information resources.


Consider learning outcomes

  • What skills should the students demonstrate with this assignment?
  • What are the desired learning outcomes?
  • How does this assignment fit into the overall course objectives?
  • Do they need to become familiar with key resources in the field such as a database or clinical practice guidelines?
  • Do your students need practice with critical thinking and evaluation of information?

Consider student skill levels
What level of information-seeking skills do your students possess?

Remember that they are novice researchers and may not have adequate information skills. Information skills training is available through the Libraries. A training session - in class or outside of class, mandatory or voluntary - can be scheduled for students who want to improve their skills and understanding of information resources and use.

Consider availability of library resources

  • Is there a specific resource the students should use?
  • Is the necessary material available at the Library?
  • If not, is it something the Library can order (keeping in mind that it can take some time to order, receive, and process materials)?
  • If it a resource that the Libraries cannot purchase, where can the students use the resource?

If it is a print resource that is owned by the library, consider putting it on reserve, so that it will be more readily available for the whole class.

Consider assignment time frame

How long should this assignment take?

If the students will need to order materials from other libraries, remember that it can take up to two weeks to get materials from another library. Also consider providing extra time to compensate for student inexperience.

Contact the Library

If desired, meet with a librarian to review the assignment and to learn about new resources that might tie in with the assignment. If you don't meet with a librarian, at least contact the Libraries, so that the reference librarians can be informed about the assignment.


Be clear about expectations

  • Give assignments in writing to reduce confusion.
  • What resources are the students expected to use - books, journal articles, research articles? Do the students need to use a particular citation style?
  • Be careful when forbidding students to use information from the Internet.
  • Many of our online resources are Internet-based. Sometimes it is helpful making the distinction between the free Internet (what is available to everyone) and the fee Internet (those Internet-based resources that the Library has purchased). Remember, however, that some of the free Internet is good information; the CDC Web site is a great source for statistical data.

Use correct terminology

Do students need to use materials in Reference or on Reserve? When you refer to "library computers," do you mean the online catalog, a database, online journals, the Internet?

Remind students of library services

Library staff members will be happy to help the students. We recommend that the students ask to speak with the reference librarian on duty, who will be able to direct the student to the appropriate resources and show him or her how to use them. Remind students of interlibrary loan and OhioLINK online borrowing to get materials not available at the University Libraries.

Remind students to begin their searches as soon as possible

Searching for information is a iterative process, not a one-time occurrence. Beginning the literature search early will allow time for a student to refine the topic and search strategy, as well as allowing time to get that "perfect" resource from another library, if necessary.

Consider the assignment

Was the assignment completed as expected? If there were problems, were they due to the design of the assignment, level of student skills, how the assignment was presented, or available resources or help at the Library? It may be helpful to meet again with the librarian to discuss the assignment.

Consider student feedback

Did the students find the assignment relevant and worthwhile? Ask them what the best part of the assignment was and how it could be improved for future classes.

For more information about designing effective library assignments or to discuss the needs of your
students, please contact the Library to speak with one of the education/information literacy librarians.