Randall Library Home

An effective library assignment has a specific, understood purpose. It relates to some aspect of the course subject matter or learning objectives. It will lead to increased understanding of the subject and the process of locating information related to the subject. An effective library assignment is an excellent teaching tool and can enhance and enrich the student's learning experience. It also increases the understanding of the subject matter and builds research skills.


  • Assume your students have minimal knowledge of the library
  • Consult with a librarian
  • Check the Randall Library online catalog to find out if we have the resources you are recommending to your students
  • Arrange for a Library Instruction session to teach research strategy
  • Plan to have your students attend a Library Instruction session when they are ready to begin their projects, not weeks before
  • Make sure your students have done some thinking about their topics before attending a Library session
  • Provide librarians with a copy of your assignment
  • Keep the assignment simple. Make sure your students can understand all of the steps
  • Articulate your research objectives clearly to your students and a librarian
  • Specify the level of research expected
  • Discuss plagiarism with your students
  •  Incorporate critical thinking into your assignments in as many places as possible
  • Encourage students to make use of the Research Help Desk but only in appropriate ways (librarians will not complete the assignment for students)
  • Try out the assignment yourself to make sure it can be completed realistically


  • Give students incomplete or incorrect citations to sources you wish them to use. If you need a complete and accurate citation consult a librarian by calling the Research Help Desk at 962-3760
  • Limit research to a particular resource. Thirty students trying to use one or two books or journal articles is stressful for everyone, and shortens the lifespan of the resource.
  • Arrange "scavenger hunts." Roaming around the library looking for trivia is not research and tends to promote learned helplessness and inevitably students learn little while librarians at the Research Help Desk become frustrated
  • Limit students to the "Bound Periodicals Section." It is no longer appropriate to say that journals available "on the Internet" are "bad." Randall Library currently subscribes to over 27,000 electronic serials. We only have 1,539 serials in print
  • Tell students they can't use "online" or "Internet" resources without explicitly defining what you mean. The majority of our library resources are searchable only through our online resources (databases and the online catalog). It is nearly impossible to locate an article without using a database that is delivered through the Internet

Working together, instructors and librarians can develop assignments that are beneficial to students. If you would like know more or set up a time to collaborate with a librarian or if you would like to arrange a formal Library Instruction session, contact Anne Pemberton, 962-7810, pembertona [at] uncw.edu. An online request form is also available at: http://library.uncw.edu/forms/request_library_instruction_session