Assignment Design for Information Literacy

Assignment Design

This page is for faculty members looking to design a research project that emphasizes information literacy skills within their discipline.

These guidelines help you design research assignments that provide students with opportunities to explore and integrate information resources while encouraging them to think critically about the information they find.

Below you’ll find general suggestions as well as examples of projects that encourage higher-level engagement with library and non-library sources.

Designing an Effective Information Literacy Assignment

  • Reach out to a librarian. Your library liaison can make sure students will have access to appropriate resources for the assignment you have in mind.
  • Let the assignment allow for a variety of sources. Students should be free to incorporate information created and communicated in various ways (e.g. articles from popular sources and peer-reviewed journals, primary and secondary sources, etc.). This requires students to engage with their sources and consider when and why information is useful in different contexts. (e.g., Authority is Constructed and Contextual; Information Creation as a Process; Searching as Strategic Exploration)
  • Scaffold the research process by assigning checkpoints. Having students turn in an annotated bibliography or outline before the final assignment is due provides formative assessment for you. It also helps students by requiring them to start early and by getting them to think about how individual sources do and do not relate to their research questions. (e.g., Research as Inquiry)
  • Reinforce ethical scholarship. Students should understand the ethical use of information and follow proper citation practices. This helps clarify the differences between citation and attribution in an academic setting. (e.g., Information Has Value; Scholarship as Conversation)

Potential Pitfalls to Avoid

  • Assuming students all have the same library knowledge. You cannot assume that all of your students have the same familiarity with library research, how Musselman Library is organized, or the resources appropriate to your course and academic discipline.
  • Requiring resources that are not in the collection. Resource subscriptions may change from year to year, so before you give an assignment, make sure that the sources you expect students to use are available. Meet with a librarian to discuss new or similar information sources that will support students answering the same research questions.
  • Directing an entire class to use the same item. Keep availability in mind if you know students will all be using the same print book or seat-limited subscription resource. Ask a librarian about placing materials on Reserve or purchasing additional materials to support your course.

Examples of Information Literacy Assignments

  • Select a scholar/researcher in a field of study and explore that person's career and ideas. In addition to locating biographical information, prepare a bibliography of writings and analyze the scholarly community’s reactions to the researcher's work.
  • Find a short article in the popular press and the original research finding on which the popular article was based. Review related findings, discuss the relationship between the popular article and original research, and assess the popular article’s accuracy while keeping its target audience in mind.
  • Update an existing bibliography or review of the literature. What has been learned since the original bibliography or review was written? What questions remain unanswered or unaddressed?
  • Select an influential study or paper published in your field. Have students place the study in both its intellectual and historical context. What were the major concepts or trends in the discipline at the time of its publishing? What impact has the article had on the discipline and on popular understanding of the topic?
  • Compare the way two different disciplines handle the same topic.