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How to Get Help Designing Library Assignments


Faculty and Teaching Assistants: If you have questions about developing library assignments, reference librarians with expertise in different subjects are available to help. Click here to view a list of subject specialists.

Here are some suggestions about what to assign and what to avoid assigning students in your classes at Old Dominion University.

Allow Students to Use Journal Articles available Electronically

When you want students to find journal articles on a particular topic, let them use journals the library makes available through online subscription. Electronic PDF versions of articles are exactly like the originals--same paging, charts, illustrations, etc. The library has approximately 20,000 electronic subscriptions for journals, magazines and newspapers but fewer than 800 in print (and those numbers will be going down). This means requiring an article from a print journal on a certain topic can be impossible--or nearly so.

Link to an Article or Book Chapter through Blackboard

If you want all your students to read the same article or book chapter, you may link from the online version of the article to your Blackboard or other course web page. To learn how to do this, read these instructions:

Electronic reserve instructions and
Fulltext Linking instructions

Place a Book on Reserve

If you want all your students to read the same book, arrange to have it put on reserve in the library for your class using these instructions.

Tour the Library

If you want to make sure your students physically come into the library, consider assignments such as asking students to find books on their topics, find articles from specialized encyclopedias in the reference room, or visit different departments in the library to discover services offered. You might consider walking with your students over to the library in the final 15 minutes of class to point out some of the areas you think will be especially helpful for them to know about.

Check Ahead to See What the Library Has

Make sure the library actually owns a copy of any book or other resource you assign. This usually means just checking the online library catalog well before each semester begins. Maybe that book has been lost or stolen. Maybe the library never owned it. Maybe there is a new edition. Maybe you still have time to order a copy for the library.

Avoid Scavenger Hunts

Avoid scavenger hunts; they may sound appealing but usually they do not teach the kind of research skills students need to learn. Additionally, having all students look for the same exact resource almost guarantees that the item will become lost and/or mutilated within a short time.

ASSIGNMENT CHECKLIST

(from Mosley, Pixie Anne. Creating a Library Assignment Workshop for University Faculty. Journal of Academic Librarianship 24 no1, 33-41 January 1998)

Mosley suggests evaluating every assignment on six points (items in parentheses are summarized):

  • Purpose (goals to be achieved)
  • Relevance (not just busy work)
  • Requiring critical thought (summarize, analyze, evaluate, etc.)
  • Flexibility (allowing students to tailor to their own interests)
  • Accuracy (clear phrasing of assignment; materials are available)
  • Doability (achievable without having the instructor’s expertise)