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Creating Effective Research Assignments

A short guide to being mindful when designing assignments with a research component.

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  • Thoughtfully consider any source requirements, such as not allowing online sources, or requiring only peer-reviewed articles, which may not be the best sources for some topics.
  • Students are best served by evaluating sources critically rather than relying on the black and white designation of peer-reviewed or not. 
    • This is due to the increasing amount and variety of information sources available to students.
  • Have clear expectations for the degree with which students will engage with the sources they identify. If you expect analysis, then assignments should specify that and provide examples.
  • Make the analysis a graded component of the final product to increase engagement with sources.
  • Utilize the UMD Libraries' extensive print and electronic collections and Interlibrary Loan.
  • Confirm availability of very specific sources (e.g digitized letters) in advance.
  • Arrange a guest lecture by a librarian for your class to facilitate student success in research-based assignments.
    • These sessions are more effective when they are tied directly to the assignment.
    • Library tours, scavenger hunts, or orientations carried out independent from a specific assignment are less effective approaches. 
    • For more information about subject librarians, including how to schedule an appointment, please visit our Meet Your Subject Specialist webpage.