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The Effective Research Assignment

What to Avoid

Plagiarism & Citing

Suggested Resources

The Effective Research Assignment

The purpose of a research assignment is to:

  • Support the learning outcomes of the course
  • Increase students’ understanding of a particular subject
  • Develop students’ ability to identify, locate, understand, evaluate, and use information
  • Emphasize the importance of ethical scholarship
Effective research assignments require students to:
  • Identify and articulate a problem or focus of inquiry
  • Develop and demonstrate research skills
  • Think critically
  • Develop and hone communication skills
  • Determine the nature and extent of needed information
  • Effectively and efficiently access needed information
  • Critically evaluate information and its sources
  • Convey findings in writing or orally
  • Ethically and legally access and use information
Suggested Research Assignments
Research assignments should require students to identify, locate, understand, evaluate, and/or use information. The ideal research assignment provides an opportunity for students to articulate a problem to be solved through research. Below is a list of the recommended research assignments that support research in a wide range of disciplines.
Providing students with detailed, WRITTEN instructions is one of the most important components of creating effective research assignments. Effective instructions include:
  • An explanation of the assignment: What exactly do you want your students to do?
  • The purpose of the assignment: Why did you assign the research assignment? What do you want your students to accomplish?
  • The scope of the assignment: How many words or pages do you require? What are your minimum and maximum requirements?
  • Submission requirements: When is the assignment due? How should students submit the assignment to you, e.g., via email, an online dropbox, or in print?
  • Source requirements: Your instructions should answer the following questions:
    • Are you requiring students to use scholarly sources, such as books and journal articles, and/or non-scholarly sources, such as newspaper and magazine articles and/or .coms?
    • Are you requiring students to use a minimum number of sources?
    • Are you requiring students to use only the Florida SouthWestern State College Libraries’ resources, i.e., sources retrieved from the online catalog and databases?
    • Are you NOT allowing students to use certain sources, such as the course textbook, book reviews, generic encyclopedias, Wikipedia, .coms, etc.?
    • Are you going to recommend or require specific sources, such as databases, reference books, items on Reserve, free Internet sites, research guides, etc.?
  • Citation requirements: Which citation style are you requiring students to use: MLA, APA, etc.?
  • Discipline Specific Guidelines: Does your discipline have unique guidelines that students must adhere to?
  • Examples: Are you providing an example of a former student’s effectively executed research assignment? Post it online; students learn by example.
  • Assessment Rubric: Have you explained how you will grade students on the assignment? Post your assessment rubric online at the beginning of the semester.
  • Assistance: Could the Writing Center, Technology Help Center, and/or Tutoring Center assist your students in completing the research assignment? Don’t forget to encourage students to seek help from a Librarian at an FSW Library!
We encourage you to email your research assignment instructions to the appropriate campus librarians. Receiving an advance copy of your instructions to place on file allows FSW Librarians to recommend the most appropriate resources and search methods to your students.