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Creating Quality Library Research Assignments

A resource guide for faculty seeking to create meaningful research assignments for their courses.

Suggestions for Library Assignments that Promote Critical Thinking



1. Prepare an Annotated Bibliography of books, journals, and web sites with evaluative annotation.

(See the Citations Research Guide with sample annotated bibliographies).

  • Use these web resources (ex: 3 websites, government sites, library databases, etc).
  • Do not use Wikipedia or similar web pages.
  • Specify allowable information sources  (ex: 4 journal articles, 1 magazine article, 3 web sites, 3 books, etc.).  

2. Prepare a Subject Guide.

  • Use Research Guides as a starting point. Online research guides include specialized reference materials, web resources, subject-specific databases, and more.  
  • Request a Research Guide for your class or subject.

3. Compare how two different disciplines discuss the same topic by finding articles from the journal literature of each discipline. (ex: learning & memory in education vs. psychology)

4. Compare the discussion of a particular research study in the popular and scholarly press. Students can compare the relationship between the popular article and original study on which it was based.

5. Compare two journal articles that discuss the same topic from different points of view.

  • Use Databases to search for articles.  Assist with suggestions for keywords to use in searching; using the words "pro" and "con" does not usually work. 
  • Include keywords in your searches such as: benefits, issues, advantages, disadvantages.
  • Each topic will be different so think of words from either side of the issue (ex: stem cell research and ethics).

6. Research a topic using primary and secondary sources. Contrast the sources, their content and treatment of the topic.

7. Compare the results of searching the same precise topic on a library Database vs. Google.

  • Use the Databases to search library databases and compare the results to the same search on Google.

8. Compare the treatment of a topic from a) a specialized encyclopedia, b) a general encyclopedia or book, and c) Wikipedia.

  • Use the advanced search options in the Library Catalog to find subject-specific and general encyclopedias and books on your topic.

9. Research a controversial topic using a variety of sources.  Discuss how the different types of sources (e.g. newspapers, websites, news magazines, academic journals, discussion lists) treat the topic.

  • Use the Library Catalog to search for books, DVDs, government documents, musical scores, etc.
  • Use Databases by Subject to find an appropriate database in which to search for scholarly journal articles by topic.
  • Give guidelines as to which formats to cover (ex: one of each – newspapers, journal articles, discussion list, etc.).

10. Evaluate a website based on specific criteria including accuracy, comprehensiveness, authority, bias, ease of use, and visual style. Compare a number of web sites representing government, personal, commercial, and scholarly sites.


11. Submit a research log with a research assignment (paper, presentation, bibliography).

  • Include information about sources used (name of the database &/or search engine), keywords and search statements used, and the number of results for a given search. Include reflections on how particular search strategies did or did not result in helpful results.

12. Research a particular topic in the literature of the 1970s and 1980s.  Research the same topic in current literature. Discuss the evolution of the field based on this exercise.

  • Use the Library Catalog to search for books.  Use the Limit by date feature to search for materials published during a period of time and/or to get updated materials.
  • Use the Databases to find articles. Use the limit by date feature to search for articles published during a period of time and/or to get updated materials.  

 Adapted From: University of Wisconsin-Stout

Last updated on Feb 23, 2024 3:31 PM