Old Dominion University Libraries

Information Literacy Program
Group Studying


For further information, contact:

  • Karen Vaughan, Digital Services Coordinator, kvaughan@odu.edu
  • Nancy Schafer, Head of Reference & Research Services, nschafer@odu.edu

Information Literacy for Faculty -- Assignments to Consider – DRAFT

NOTE:  This list was adapted from various other university libraries listed under Sources below.

Ideas for full-semester assignments:

  • Annotated Bibliography -- Students develop a topic, select appropriate access tools, search for research materials, evaluate what they find for relevancy to their topic.  They present their findings with correct citations and coherent evaluation of items found as a final project.
  • Literature Review – a more in-depth evaluation and critical review of sources and their relationships.
  • Subject Guide/Research Guide/Pathfinder -- Annotated introduction to the best information sources to use for finding a variety of sources for a specific topic. 
  • Research Paper Skeleton -- Working through the research cycle for a term paper, do everything except write it. At various stages, submit the following: clearly defined topic; annotated bibliography of useful sources; outline of paper; thesis statement; opening paragraph and summary
  • Research Presentation – research a topic and present findings using PowerPoint, Poster Session, Web page, Brochure, Research Proposal (incorporate Excel charts, images, etc).  Include list of sources. 
  • Journal or log – students keep a journal of the processes used and what they learned in various assignments, including topic development, keywords used, databases, etc.  (Include frustrations as well.)
  • Wiki – Have the class collaborate on its own Wiki article, weblog, or podcast and research information to develop the content.
  • Conference – students plan and put on a conference complete with poster sessions, panels, papers, etc using different aspects of a broad topic.

Other assignments to consider:

  • Examine the treatment of a controversial issue in several different sources. For example, a newspaper article or editorial, peer-reviewed journal article, book, or professional association website.
  • Provide students with a popular news article that presents the findings from a recent peer-reviewed research article (ex., article on coffee drinking being beneficial to older adults).  Have students locate the peer-reviewed article using a library database. Discuss the differences between the two articles, including audience, format, content, authority, etc.
  • What does "the literature" of a particular discipline look like? What comprises it? Investigate the production and dissemination of information in a given discipline. How and by whom is the knowledge produced? How and in which media or format is it presented or communicated? How important is informal communication in the field? How do professionals keep abreast of new information in this field?
  • Look at a list of citations and determine what type of source is being cited (book, journal, video, etc).
  • Review several types of publications.  Determine if the item is scholarly or popular? is the item primary or secondary?  (Optional:  Have students look up the journal/magazine titles on UlrichsWeb to find more information – peer-reviewed? subscription numbers?)
  • Compare primary and secondary sources on the same topic. When and how are either used in a given discipline?
  • In class activity re topic selection:   students each come up with a topic (or groups) – explain why or why it is not a good topic and have class critique.  Too broad, too narrow, etc
  • Discuss various topics and have students create concept maps for various keywords.
  • Compare Internet search engine and periodical database searches using identical search statements. Discuss the initial search results and compare the findings. Revise the search statements and appropriately search each source again. Compare the final results.
  • Working in small groups or pairs, examine a small number of items such as books, articles, or websites. Establish indicators of quality, where these indicators are found, and the appropriate use for each.
  • Critique an article. Locate two authoritative websites supporting your response to the topic. Cite the URLs in an appropriate format and highlight the points indicating this support.
  • Find and evaluate a website against specified criteria. Cite the website in a specific citation format and write a brief evaluation (2-3 paragraphs). Note reasons why these pages are, or are not, appropriate for university level student research or for in-class use. Attach a printout of the first page of the website.
  • Select a Wikipedia article on a specified topic and critique it. Compare the information presented in the Wikipedia article to more traditional sources of information on this topic, such as a print encyclopedia or textbook.  (read article about Rush Limbaugh & Wikipedia)
  •  Using book reviews, biographical information, and citation indexes, explore how and why a work becomes a "classic." What effect can a classical work have on a discipline?
  • Explore a scholar, historical figure, or other significant person’s career and ideas by locating biographical information, preparing a bibliography of their works, and analyzing the reactions of peers to their works.
  • Students follow a piece of federal or state legislation related to their field of study. Provide supporting research as to why this issue is important or controversial and cite sources. Present findings to the class in a poster session.
  • Compare literature on a topic from different time periods. How has the treatment of the topic evolved over time?
  • What does "the literature" of a particular discipline look like? What comprises it? Investigate the production and dissemination of information in a given discipline. How and by whom is the knowledge produced? How and in which media or format is it presented or communicated? What is the publishing cycle? How important is informal communication in the field? How important is grey literature? How do people keep abreast of new information in this field?
  • Compare how two different disciplines discuss the same topic using journal articles or online resources from each discipline.
  • Choose a local issue or problem and research how other communities have dealt with it. Write a “letter to the editor” or create a visual presentation, supporting your position with facts and cited sources.
  • Examine the experimental design, data, and interpretation of the data in a research paper for adequacy and consistency. [Again, selected questions may assist students to focus on specific aspects.]
  •  Compare the reference lists of two published articles on the same topic. Evaluate the choice of materials cited by the authors. What clues do the citations indicate about the article?
  • Have students research population statistics for the city in which they were born.  Determine the date of its incorporation and what the population was in 1950, 1970, 1990, and 2010.  Use Excel to create a chart/graph of the changes.
  • Read a specified news story and make a list of the obvious sources used by the reporter to develop the story (including experts who were interviewed).  List three other sources you might use to improve the story.

Good assignments should ...

  • encourage use of a variety of information sources
  • incorporate critical thinking skills
  • challenge students to evaluate information critically
  • improve students’ search skills
  • develop a spirit of inquiry
  • promote academic integrity through the ethical use of information


  • For research assignments, provide students a list of 3-4 topics from which to choose.
  • Avoid limiting students to print only articles; most of our journals are electronic!
  • Avoid sending an entire class to find one specific resource.
  • Concentrate on evaluating resources rather than excluding Internet resources outright.
  • Consider having a librarian test-drive the assignment!!

Sources Used