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STLCC Libraries Help for Faculty

Some suggestions for designing research assignments:

Integrate information literacy objectives with course objectives: 

Students can simultaneously learn course content and research skills.  Consider putting your objectives on the assignment.  Students need to see relevance of assignments to the course.  They also need to understand that information skills learned now will be helpful to them in future courses and in real life.

Consult with an Instruction Librarian:

Library faculty may have some helpful ideas or spot potential problems with an assignment.  They can determine whether the library has the needed materials to support the assignment, and can help you keep abreast of changes in the information world that may affect your assignments. Some ongoing assignments may lend themselves to creating a library Course Guide. Example: http://guides.stlcc.edu/BIO111 .

Be up-to-date:

Make sure your assignments require up-to-date research methods and resources.  The information world is constantly changing.

Be creative:

Traditional research papers are one way students use and demonstrate research skills, but there are many other types of assignments that help students learn and practice information skills. Consider assigning presentations, posters, persuasive speeches, annotated bibliographies, source reviews or evaluations, etc.  Try to promote critical thinking toodoing something with information—not just looking it up! Consider assignments that provide practice in a specific information skill rather than the whole gamut that is required by a research paper. Add links to library resources where appropriate, such as Citation Help: http://guides.stlcc.edu/citation_help.

Consider faceting large research assignments:

Breaking down a big research assignment into a series of smaller, graded assignments helps students learn the research process. This can also help keep students on task, help you check their progress, and can help avoid plagiarism.

Put assignments in writing:

Your students can better meet and understand the requirements of an assignment when they have a copy to read and show the librarian when asking for assistance.

Write clear directions: 

Ask someone to read your instructions and determine if they are clear, complete, and error-free. Be sure to define technical library and discipline-specific terminology.

Provide a copy of the assignment to the librarians:

The librarians can better help your students when they are alerted to upcoming assignments.  This also helps the Libraries build a stronger curriculum-centered collection. Using the Assignment Alert Form makes it easy to give librarians a heads-up.

Promote ethical habits of scholarship:

Make sure your students understand the importance of academic integrity and the avoidance of plagiarism.  Expect proper source citations.

It’s really useful to DO THE ASSIGNMENT yourself.  

Can you complete the assignment with the resources that are available to your students?  Have you checked recently that the needed materials are available?  Is the assignment too hard?  Is it too easy?  Does it meet your objectives?

Assignment Ideas from the Library Toolbox for Faculty

Library Resources

Integrate affordable STLCC Libraries resources in your courses

In addition to strictly OER resources, there are a number of ways classroom faculty can supplement or replace costly course materials with resources from STLCC Libraries. Instruction librarians are available to help you find, vet, and curate resources available to all registered STLCC students through our Libraries and other institutions. 

Below you'll find a few examples that are easily implemented.

  • Discipline-specific Library Research Guides are automatically linked in your Blackboard course. Select the Libraries/Resources folder to view them. In the Libraries/Resources folder, you'll also find a link to create a reading list for your students directly from the Libraries' discovery tool, Search It! If you are in the Blackboard edit mode, look for the hidden folder housing this tool.
     
  • Faculty may place direct links to resources such as library instruction videos, a favorite database for an assignment, select ebooks, articles, or to a full text run of a journal title. Use Ask a Librarian to contact an instruction librarian for assistance. 
     
  • Some of our ebooks allow for unlimited simultaneous users, making these texts perfect for affordable course textbooks. The databases listed below provide collections of books allowing unlimited simultaneous users. 

Avoid these pitfalls when designing research assignments:

Avoid sending everyone after the same resource:

Sending a large group of students after the same resource or to research the same topic at the same time may make it difficult for students to find the information they need to complete the assignment. Consider placing heavy-demand items on Reserve or giving students broader choices in topics/sources.

Avoid information scavenger hunts or other trivia-type searches:

These often frustrate students (and librarians) and do not require the same research skills students should develop for their academic work. 

Don’t overestimate students’ research skills:

Dissect the assignment and analyze the skills needed to complete it.  Do your students have these skills?  You might want to work with a librarian to design needed instruction, handouts, tutorials, etc.

Avoid using limitations that are unclear or difficult to achieve:

Beware of restrictions such as, “You may not use the Internet” or “No encyclopedias.”  Such limitations must carefully match the assignment, the topic, and the modern information world.  Examples of such problems include:

  • Requiring scholarly journal articles for non-scholarly topics.
  • Telling students they “can’t use the Internet.” 
    • It’s not the Internet that’s bad.  It’s the inability to distinguish between quality and questionable sources. Much quality information purchased by libraries is delivered via the Internet.  Students, however, often mistakenly think they cannot use articles from subscription databases when an instructor tells them that the Internet is off-limits.
    • Also, many suitable sources, even scholarly journal articles, are now available on the free web, so it is probably better to tell students the types of sources you want rather than tell them where they may or may not look for them.  (In other words, if you require scholarly journal articles, just say that. They might be found in print, in library databases, or on the free web.) 
  • Requiring only print sources or only books, or limiting the number of electronic sources students may use.  
  • Banning use of encyclopedias when what you mean to ban are general, not subject encyclopedias. Subject encyclopedias can be a good authoritative place to start learning about a new topic or may provide scholarly discussion of topics in the field
  • Requiring primary sources without defining what you mean.  Primary sources vary by discipline and research topic.

Consulting with a librarian can help create an assignment that avoids the pitfalls and that works for you and your students!

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000