Library Assignments in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Are your students cursing you behind your back? Want to know why? That library assignment, the one meant to inspire the next generation of academic prodigies has, instead, produced frustration and despair. Students often encounter problems when assignments are designed without due consideration of the terminology, technology and collections found in 21st century libraries. Effective library assignments enable students to develop analytical skills, contextualize their research and engage meaningfully with the scholarship in their discipline. This pathfinder will offer some suggestions for creative library assignments. The examples are only meant as a jumping off point, they would have to be tailored to your course and expanded with proper instructions. The assignments listed below are meant to help your students:
In addition to these suggested assignments, you may want to consider bringing your class in for a library workshop. Here's how to arrange for an assignment-based library workshop and/or course specific instruction please. Alternatively, if you want some quick feedback on a library assignment you've designed, please contact the subject librarian in your area.
| Exploring the Research Process
Content isn't all that counts - students also need to familiarize themselves with the process of doing research. In fact, learning how a particular discipline organizes itself, what the major themes are and who the main players are, is a critical academic lesson. Reflecting on how best to find information for a particular need, or on a particular topic, is skill that will be useful for a lifetime. The following assignments should help your students to appreciate the intuitive, evaluative and time-consuming (!) aspects of conducting research. Examples are listed from easier assignments to more advanced.
Sharpening Critical Thinking
Critical thinking these days is....well critical. Libraries go beyond their four walls and are truly gateways to the whole universe of information. Students need to be able to make sound judgments about the content and value, as well as the biases, inherent in the information sources they choose to use. The assignments below should help your students to sharpen those analytical skills! Once again, the examples are ordered from easier to more difficult.
There has been a lively discussion lately about the pros and cons of using the research essay as an assignment. Surely say its defenders such an essay is a rite of passage and the mark of a true academic. The nay sayers point out that the average 1st and 2nd year student doesn't have the skills to properly handle such an assignment, leading to poor outcomes and frustration all round. As a way to mediate between these two extremes consider breaking the research essay into a number of different steps, with time built in for feedback along the way.
Written by Kalina Grewal and Jody Warner