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Best Practices to Promote Student Engagement in Research

Students spend a lot of their time searching online for information. However, many students have limited research experience. Project Information Literacy conducted a national survey about college students’ research habits:

Information literacy infographic
Download the PDF version of the above image.

Here are some ideas that will help make a research assignment also a successful learning experience:

  • Schedule a course-integrated library instruction session.
  • Consult with a librarian before making the assignment.
  • Put your librarian liaison's name on your syllabus. Contact the library to find out who they are.
  • Design your assignment so that students will learn or reinforce skills they can use in the future.
  • Important: Complete the assignment yourself before you assign it to your students.
  • Make sure the library has the resources your class needs.
  • Require students to find, evaluate, and use information in a meaningful and relevant way.
  • Divide the assignment into segments to help students stay on track.
  • Avoid scavenger hunts. Hunting for obscure facts does not support learning research methods.
  • Focus on content rather than format. Online sources may be more appropriate than print sources.
  • Avoid the “mob scene.” If many students will have to use the same print materials, put them on reserve.
  • Explain the assignment clearly to the students, preferably in writing.
  • Define research terms such as “scholarly” or “peer reviewed.”
  • Provide students with examples of good assignments and highlight appropriate elements.
  • Give students enough time to complete the assignment successfully. Remind students that even under the best circumstances, good research takes time.
  • Encourage students to ask for help.
  • Encourage students to be critical of all types of sources and evaluate the information they find.


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Aleck Williams
Subject Areas: Math, Healthcare, Paralegal Studies, and Science

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