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Social Science Library Assignment Tips   Tags: library_assignments, social_science  

Tips for social science faculty on creating library assignments
Last Updated: Aug 25, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Library Assignment Tips

As you prepare library assignments, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Carefully identify the learning objectives of your assignment. We recommend that you take the time to consider how your objectives articulate with the competencies which serve as the foundation of the Stewart Library's Information Literacy program. Reviewing these competencies may also give you new ideas for your assignments. 
  • Assume that your students have limited information literacy skills, expecially in lower division courses. Students are often frustrated when assignments make unrealistic assumptions about their knowledge of the library. For example, we have found that most students, even seniors and graduate students, have difficulty understanding what is meant by "professional journal" as opposed to "popular magazine."
  • Avoid "treasure hunts" and similar assignments. In most cases, such assignments become an end in themselves and not a means to an end because students have difficulty "buying in" to the assignment. If possible, your library assignment should be directly relevant to other learning activities such as term papers, oral presentations, portfolios, journals, etc.
  • Provide students with the oportunity to select their own topic (within limits) instead of requiring everyone to search for resources on the same topic.
  • Work through the assignment yourself, then ask a colleague and perhaps an advanced student to do the same. They may notice problems that escaped your attention.
  • Consult with a subject librarian regarding the objectives of the assignment, the availability of resources, and any potential pitfalls for students. Nothing is more frustrating for a student than finding for some reason that they cannot access the resources they are required to use. This is especially important for students in online courses, since they must be in the library to use certain resources and they must use their Wildcat ID and password to access many of our databases from off-campus.
  • Avoid requiring students to restrict their search only to the Web or, on the other hand, to anything but the Web. Most students do not understand the differences between information found on the Web and in the library's article databases, especially since our article databases and electronic journals are accessed via the Web. Some of the most effective library assignments require that students compare information found on the Web to that found in professional journals and popular magazines.
  • Stress the importance of evaluating information as part of your assignment. The best way to do this is to provide guidelines for evaluation and to require that students write a brief annotation or an evaluative essay. Evaluation may also be part of a more extensive research project into which the library assignment is integrated.
  • Where practical, arrange for a hands-on information literacy session specifically designed to assist students with the assignment. Please contact one of our subject librarians to schedule a session. You may also schedule a library instruction section via the Web.
  • If you post your assignments on the Web or in Canvas, considering adding links :
  • Since the only constant in the library (and on the Web) is change, it is essential to review and update your assignments at the beginning of each semester.

Social Sciences & Music Librarian

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Wade Kotter
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