Cumberland University

Creating Effective Library Assignments

Creating Effective Library Assignments

Tips for creating effective library assignments


  • Don’t assume that your students have had experience with research in the library. Schedule a library instruction session to get everyone on a level playing field.

  • Keep the assignment simple and provide clear instructions.

  • Try completing the assignment yourself to make sure the necessary resources are available and to see where students might run into problems when they are doing the assignment.

  • For more complex assignments, break them down into steps and assign a deadline for each one.

  • Avoid giving an entire class exactly the same assignment. This ensures that needed resources will be available for each students’ topic. If it is necessary for an entire class to use a particular resource, place it on course reserve.

  • Require students to use a variety of sources and formats (print, electronic, media, etc.) to gain a well-rounded view of information.

  • Avoid “scavenger hunt” type assignments that require students to locate random facts. These are among the least effective assignments and it is often the library staff, not the students, who end up locating the information.

  • Let a librarian know about your research assignments so that we can prepare to assist your students with their specific needs.

  • Encourage students to stop by the reference desk or schedule a research consultation with a librarian to get help.


Suggestions for library assignments


  • Prepare an annotated bibliography on a topic including a variety of sources and formats.

  • Compare and contrast information found on a particular topic from a variety of sources and formats.

  • Gather information on a topic from both primary and secondary sources. Compare and contrast how the topic is treated.

  • Prepare a guide to the literature within a certain time frame on a particular subject.

  • Research a particular event and compare and contrast how this event has been treated in a variety of sources such as newspapers, journals, magazines, books, etc.

  • Compare and contrast how different disciplines view the same topic by looking at journals from each discipline.

  • Compare and contrast how a given topic is treated in scholarly and popular press.

  • Evaluate a web site and discuss whether or not it can be considered credible and why.

  • Compare information found on a specific topic from different types of web sites (.gov, .com, .org, etc.).

  • Compare the results of searching a topic using an Internet search engine and a library database.

  • Keep a research log to track where you looked for information, where you had the most success, and what search terms and techniques work best.

  • Research a particular topic in the literature of a past decade, then compare it to the literature of today to see how this topic has evolved.

  • Research the work of a particular scholar and track his/her research and publications over time.


Please contact the Reference and Instruction Librarian, Bettina Warkentin, with any questions you have regarding creating effective library assignments.