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University of Connecticut University Libraries

Incorporating Information Literacy: Tips for Assignment Development

Liaison Librarians assist faculty in creating assignments that encourage students' use of the Libraries and help develop their critical thinking and information seeking skills.

Many types of assignments will provide students with information literacy skill development. For ideas beyond the traditional research paper, view this guide, Alternatives to Research Papers.

Consider using the following strategies:

Clearly Define and State the Assignment Objectives

Are students required to use certain library databases, resources, or materials? How many sources are required?

Preview the Assignment

Send a copy of your assignment, along with other relevant material such as the course syllabus, to your liaison ahead of time. The Liaison will check the assignment for feasibility and insure that the resources of the library are adequate for the assignment. If you are providing students with a list of sources to consult, we will verify the citations. Liaisons can suggest key resources for the assignment and recommend items for the Reserve Room or Electronic Course Reserves.

Establish Sequential Steps in the Research Process

Help the students understand the process of research. Have specific assignments due at brief intervals. Such requirements help to combat plagiarism. Consider the following four steps for assignments:

  • Statement of Topic with questions to be explored
  • A working bibliography formatted in APA or MLA or other style: a first glance at possible sources found through the library's catalog and/or databases
  • A final bibliography of the sources which will be used
  • A first draft

Sample Statement of Topic and Questions to Explore

My research topic is Operation Bootstrap, a post World War II plan set up by the Commonwealth government of Puerto Rico and the United States, to industrialize Puerto Rico. The industrialization of Puerto Rico failed to provide jobs to all Puerto Ricans on the island. The solution came in the form of thousands of factory jobs offered to Puerto Ricans in New York City. Thus, starting in the early 1950s a mass migration of Puerto Ricans streamed into New York City. I will find out through research what these early Puerto Rican migrants experienced in New York City.

Questions on Operation Bootstrap:
What was Operation Bootstrap?
When did Operation Bootstrap occur?
Who were the people involved?

Questions about the Puerto Rican migrants:
Where did they come from in Puerto Rico?
How did they get to New York City?
Where did they stay in NYC?
Who went with them?
Who stayed behind?
Were there language barriers in NYC?
How did they overcome barriers?
What was the effect on their culture?
How did they fit in?
Were there any changes in culture?
How were relationships created?
Was there any prejudice?
What were the effectson the family?
Did social roles between men and women change?

Library Language

Familiarize students with common terminology used in libraries such as reference, reserve, citation, journal, periodical, indexes and abstracts. Introduce them to terms specific to research and library use. Refer to this Glossary of Library Terms and alert your students to its availability.

Give Students Some Latitude

Allow students to choose their specific subject within a broad range of topics. For example, give students a list of 20 American short stories to pick to critique, rather than expect all student to evaluate the same short story. This guarantees that there will not be 25 students looking for the same materials in the library.

Encourage Critical Thinking and Evaluation of Information

Include the evaluation and analysis of information as part of the research process. Require students to use a variety of sources - primary and secondary, popular journals and scholarly journals - and to distinguish among them. Consider alternate formats and their implications: information in books versus information in journal articles; printed material relative to online, video, or audio formats.

Web Site Usage

If Web sites to be used as resources, check out Evaluating World Wide Web Resources for suggestions. Require that an evaluation worksheet be completed for each Web site your students use in the Works Cited.

Use Reserves

If a non-Reference item will be used by many in the class, put it on print Reserve in the library, or through WebCT on Electronic Course Reserve. Reference materials generally are not put on Reserve, since they would not leave the library in any case. However, a Reference title may be conveniently placed at the Reference Desk if it is to be used by a whole class. Please contact your Liaison Librarian to reserve Reference titles.

Refer Students to Library Staff

Encourage students to check with Librarians at the Reference Desk or to make an appointment with a Library Liaison/subject specialist to help them find the resources they need.


Avoid These Obstacles to Success:

  • Entire class looking for one piece of information or researching one topic.
  • Students are sent to the Libraries to find obscure facts.
  • Students working from incomplete or incorrect resource lists.
  • Assigned materials are not owned by the Libraries.
  • Vague topics are assigned and/or approved.

Other useful hints: