DePaul University Libraries > Services > Library Instruction > Research Assignments

Research Assignments

​​Tips for Designing a Successful Research Assignment

Research Process & Skills

  • Make the assignment an inquiry tied directly to course content.
  • Avoid scavenger hunts.
  • Break the research assignment into manageable parts. Require that students turn in a topic proposal, an annotated bibliography, or a draft along the way to the final product.
  • Don't assume that students have had prior research experience or experience using the DePaul University Library. Ask students about their research experience at the start of the quarter. Encourage novice researchers to meet with a librarian. Recommend tutorials and guides they can use to get up to speed.


  • Explain the assignment in writing.
  • Be specific. Be clear about what you mean by "scholarly" .
  • If you discourage the use of “web sites," be sure to clarify that web-based research databases subscribed to by the library are acceptable.
  • Don't assume that students understand how to differentiate between primary and secondary sources. 
  • Help students avoid pitfalls by  suggesting specific databases or other library resources by name to students. 

Library Resources

  • Check to see that the Library has the resources students will need to complete the assignment -- especially if you haven't used the assignment in a while or teach at multiple institutions.
  • Refer to databases by name, not by vendor. 
  • Be sure to include the full titles of journals or other resources. 
  • If multiple students are going to be accessing the same resources, put the items on course reserves.

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