Traditional research papers are not always the best vehicle to help students learn about using information and knowledge to advance their thinking and writing. Before assigning research in your class, consider these 3 questions:
Will finding, using and learning from outside sources help students be successful in my class or meet my learning outcomes?
What do I want students to be able to do with their research?
How might a research assignment fit into the larger curriculum (e.g. what can students' build upon and then use to prepare for the next step)?
Basic Assignment Design Principles
Assignments should be designed backwards, meaning that they should have a clear purpose related to the learning outcomes of the course.
What is the central task that must be undertaken?
Effective assignments clearly articulate what kind of action or performance is expected. They are designed to elicit particular learning outcomes (and not too many).
How should the required task be undertaken?
Pay attention to process, as experts doing research in their field often forget what it is like to approach research as a novice.
How should student understanding of their research be communicated? How extensive should the communication be?
Think about audience, genre, and disciplinary conventions, as well as students' ability to understand and place specialized knowledge in context.
Subject librarians with experience teaching information literacy in your discipline can help you design assignments to ensure that they engage students with the most effective and appropriate information tools and sources.