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Research Assignment Design for Student Success: Designing Meaningful Research Assignments

Designing Meaningful Research Assignments

Purpose of the Assignment

Effective assignments:

  • Introduce students to the literature of a discipline
  • Demystify the research process and information resources
  • Enable students to improve search skills necessary for academic research
  • Require students to compare new knowledge with prior knowledge
  • Challenge students to evaluate information critically
  • Promote academic integrity through the ethical use of information
  • Develop students' spirit of inquiry

Characteristics of a Good Assignment

  • Has learning outcomes, making it clear to students what you want them to learn
  • Clearly outlines what is expected (length, types of acceptable sources, due dates) and how it will be evaluated.
  • States what citation style should be used and provides resources or guides for that style, if they are not readily available online or through the library.
  • Defines any terms that may be unclear (e.g., peer-reviewed, primary sources).
  • Utilizes sources that are owned by Westchester Community College and available when and how you hope to use them.
  • Provide students with opportunities to report on progress and ask questions.
  • Is provided in writing.

Consider Your Students

Students engaging in research projects:

  • Are often far from comfortable using the library and research tools
  • Have widely varying levels of research skills
  • Usually do not know much about a topic at first
  • Will usually take the path of least resistance (time and effort)
  • Do not know how to find information effectively, and usually rely on methods that have worked for them before
  • Often do not evaluate information well
  • Are often not comfortable with academic writing


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