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Designing Effective Research Assignments

What to expect in this guide

This guide is intended to help Oregon State University instructors as they design or revise assignments and projects that require outside sources both scholarly and non-scholarly. The guide includes resources to help you think about

Assignment Design Tips

Before assigning research in your class, consider these questions:

  1. Will finding, using, and learning from outside sources help students be successful in my class or meet my learning objectives?
  2. What do I want students to be able to do with their research and the evidence they find?
  3. What do I have the capacity to support?

Try to avoid...

  • Assignments that require students to use, locate, or manipulate something that our library does not have access to.
  • Assignments that require students to find sources in an outdated or inefficient way.
  • Assignments with source requirements that don't make sense for the intended audience or rhetorical purpose.

Research Process Foundations

The pedagogical base for research using sources is commonly referred to as information literacy. The basic steps of information literacy include:

  • identifying and exploring the information need or topic,
  • searching for and finding information related to that need,
  • reading and evaluating the information for characteristics like relevance or credibility,
  • applying information in a way that is appropriate for the specific context,
  • using information ethically.

The rest of this guide will share strategies and tools you can use with students during each step of the information literacy or research cycle. Notice that the steps are meant to be iterative and will often loop back and inform other stages of the research process. The guide will share strategies to encourage students to engage in these iterative behaviors.