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Faculty Support

Teaching faculty, try these tips and techniques to save time and get better student papers.

Planning Checklist

Planning Checklist: Research Assignments

It is important to collaborate with librarians, anticipate student stumbling blocks, and have a list of resources ready to guide students successfully through the research process. Using this checklist can help you in the planning process, save your time, and help your students succeed.


General Assignment Considerations

___Relate assignments to some aspect of course subject matter or learning objectives.

___Increase understanding of both the subject and process for locating information with a structured assignment. 

Encouraging Time Management

___Scaffold assignment activities to build upon each other, culminating in the final project.

___Provide a timeline to inform students how far along they should be by certain dates (see Research Paper Planner and Research Scheduler); set deadlines which allow students sufficient time for exploration, research, drafts and final production.

Type of Assignment

___Consider experimenting with shorter, less-complex essays or projects instead of a term paper (article summaries, scholarly paper analysis, annotated  bibliographies, etc.), and specify the number and types of sources required.

Modeling and Grading

___Provide models of exemplary research projects.

___Provide a grading rubric so instructor expectations are understood. 

Involve a librarian in the design and research guidance phases

___Confirm that published research exists to support the research assignment  and required (textbook) and recommended sources are available at the Pierce Library, or as free, Open Education Resources (OERs).

___Require each student to research a different topic to ensure the library offers enough print resources.

___Suggest sources that align with students’ levels (reading ability, knowledge of subject matter, and search skills).

___Set reasonable expectations about the use of print versus online sources.  (Sometimes, the most recent information is no longer available in print, e.g.  many government publications are now only online).


RESEARCH GUIDANCE Provide the Pierce Library link:

Getting Started (General Knowledge/Research Process and Questions)

___Understand the Research Process (e.g. Kulthau’s Information Search Process;  ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards ; ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education)

___Define research assignment terminology so that it does not create ambiguity (e.g., handouts stating that students cannot use the Internet, yet they must  locate articles in the library’s online subscription databases).

Searching for Information

___Direct students where to find a variety of resources including digital (library databases, catalog, blogs, wikis, websites, etc.).

___Recommend and require specific sources, such as library databases, reference materials, scholarly sources, etc.

___Review search strategies with your students (Boolean operators, full-text, scholarly limiters, advanced searching, subject searching).

___Permit students to change their topics based on the reality of their research  experience.

Evaluating Information

___Require appropriate authority, content, and timeliness (use evaluation guides such as Evaluating information on the Internet).

Using Information

___Inform students of how to avoid plagiarism (e.g. Purdue’s OWL: Preventing Plagiarism or Pierce Library's guide: Plagiarism)

___Address note-taking, paraphrasing, summarizing, and ethical scholarship.

___Provide citation guidance: Citing Your Sources (Pierce Library).

___Give technical “how to” instructions for researching, using, creating and  evaluating digital sources such as blogs, wikis, or streaming videos.



___Include links and contact information for Librarian(s), Tech Support, and Tutoring services in addition to your own contact information.

___Invite your college librarian to class (shows students that even you are asking the librarian for assistance).

___Connect students to their college library: Pierce College Library.

___Connect students to Pierce Library guides such as Choosing a Topic and Search Techniques.

___Demonstrate support services in class, such as "Chat with a librarian now," in the bottom box on the left side of the Library's home page:

Adapted from Planning Checklist: Research Assignments by Library Instructional Council, Maricopa Community Colleges, Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit