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New Mexico State University

Effective Assignments helpful tips

Do not assume that your students already know how to do college-level research.

Give students library instruction close to a due date.
You could ask students to hand in a working bibliography the next class.

Design assignments in consultation with librarians.
Librarians can suggest steps and appropriate resources and methods. This reduces frustration and increases efficiency.

Give clear directions.
Students will often interpret directions in a very simplistic sense. For example, simply saying "no Internet resources" makes students wonder whether library databases accessed over the Internet are also forbidden.

Encourage students to use library resources.
Students are often unaware that they can find many online resources using the licensed article databases available via the Library's web site. Librarians can assist in identifying relevant library databases and other tools.

Direct students to various possible topics and resources, rather than a single topic or source.
If all students are writing on the same topic, plagiarism is easier. It is also easy to find papers on broad or common topics. Please see our tips on How to Prevent Plagiarism.

Pre-test the assignment.
Check that resources are adequate and access is unproblematic.

When all students must consult an item, place it on reserve.
Placing it on reserve ensures that all students, not just one, can access the material.

Avoid scavenger hunts.
Students find these frustrating, and librarians end up doing the work.

Sources Consulted in the Construction of this page

Parker-Gibson, Necia, "Library Assignments: Challenges that Students Face and How to Help," College Teaching 49(2):65-71, Spring 2001

University of California, Berkeley, Library: "Effective Assignments Using Library and Internet Resources"

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