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Library Services

Creating Effective Research Assignments

Your library liaison is always eager to receive an advance copy of any assignment that involves library research. The reference librarians can be briefed so they can better help your students understand the assignment and find the information they need. In addition, we can put library materials on reserve for your class so that all students have equal access to them.  When appropriate, your library liaison can work with you to develop a Campus Guide that can address your students' research needs for a specific assignment.


Here are some tips to help you create research assignments that are effective and meaningful:

  • Always provide written assignment prompts (or post them electronically) for your students. If you can, list some of the resources students might need to get started. 
  • Provide a context, key concepts, or background for why students are completing the assignment.
  • Work through the prompt yourself to make sure the necessary resources are available to your students. If you can't find the sources you want, they won't find them either. When you do the assignment, you are vetting the sources available to them AND discouraging plagiarism and academic dishonesty.
  • Students take your prompts VERY literally. Encourage them to think creatively about the terminology they use when doing research (i.e. the terms used to describe the assignment may not be the only--or best--ones for their search strategy).
  • Provide accurate and complete citations when recommending sources, which helps students find the right material and sets a good example.
  • Research can be a lengthy process. Encourage students to begin their research as early as possible.
  • If you limit the use of the Web for research, make sure students understand the difference between materials freely available on the Web and those available through the library's subscription databases. These databases provide full-text access to academic as well as popular materials that have been published in reputable periodicals, most of which are not available in print in the GCC Library.
  • Encourage students to consult with a reference librarian.


Use unambiguous language in research assignments or projects: 

  • Most library resources (except print books and periodicals in print) students encounter will be available electronically through the internet. 

Avoid using the following phrases in your assignments or when talking about library resources:

  • "print sources only" -- unless you mean this literally -- that is, specific print books in the collection, items on reserve, or periodicals only available in print. 
  • "no web, electronic, or online sources" -- this phrase has the same impact as the phrase "print only." 

Instead, if you would like students to use reputable and reliable sources from the library, consider using the following statement:

"You may use sources found through the GCC Library, such as subscription databases, the library catalog (books), and electronic book databases. When using open web or non-library sources, make sure they are reliable, authoritative, objective, current, and accurate."

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