Design your assignment so that students will learn or reinforce skills they can use in the future.
Clearly define the task and identify any sources students should or should not use.
Work through the assignment yourself, even if you're just revising an old assignment. Make sure that the assignment does what you want it to do and that the library in fact has the resources the students will need.
Put materials on reserve, if many students will have to use the same materials. (This is not necessary for reference books since they cannot be checked out. However, reference books can be kept at the Reference Desk for easy and reliable access by your students.)
Schedule a course-integrated library instruction session. If this is not possible, send a copy of your assignment to the Research and Instructional Services department or contact Ask a Librarian.
Give students enough time to complete the assignment successfully. Remind students that even under the best circumstances, good research takes time.
Encourage students to stop by the Reference Desk or to schedule an individual meeting with a member of the reference department if they need assistance.
Contact the Research and Instructional Services department if, in the course of your students' work on the assignment, you need to clarify something with the librarians or if your students are experiencing a problem that we can help solve.
Requiring a source that the library no longer has.
Using an incomplete name or initials when referring to a source. For example, don't tell your students to use "Gale's," since Gale publishes many well-known reference books. Be more specific by asking them to use Gale's Dictionary of Literary Biography .
Giving students hard-to-answer trivia questions (librarians usually end up giving students the answers).
Giving students a generic assignment out of a handbook or textbook without checking first to make sure it can be done using the library's resources.
Assigning a narrow topic that requires the use of specialized collections or databases, without first introducing students to the resources.
At the Reference Desk, we often hear students say that they aren't allowed to use Internet or web sources. Many people don't realize that reputable sources are available full-text on the web. Joyner Library has canceled its print subscriptions to many journals because we have access to them on the web through an aggregator like EBSCOhost's Academic Search Premier. You may want to stress the difference between the resources the library pays for and "free" web sources. The Library's subscription databases can be accessed from the library web site. Incorporating an evaluative component into an assignment may help students differentiate between valuable free web sites, like those produced by think tanks and government agencies, and those of poor quality. The library's web-based tutorial, "How Do I Evaluate Web Sites?" provides further guidance.
If you have questions or comments, please contact the Research and Instructional Services department's Ask a Librarian service.