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Faculty Guide to the Library

Find out what the library can do to help you save time and connect your students to expert research guidance.

Ideas Include...

Sometimes you want to go beyond the same old "pick a topic, research, and write 10 pages using xyz style" assignment.


  • Presentations, of course -- let's just get this one out of the way.
  • Un-Research Paper
    • Students first draft a paper using no citations at all. When they run into places where they don't know something, they'll just make up information. This is followed by the students then doing the research to find and correct what they originally came up with -- this can be submitted in the form of an annotated bibliography or a full, corrected draft of their original paper.
    • Additional reflection could require students to comment on how their sources (or lack thereof) affect their final paper, what information contradicted/supported what they originally wrote, etc.
  • Format Translation
    • Have students take one mode of information delivery (a section of their textbook, an article...) and translate it into a different format. Maybe an infographic becomes a song, or a scholarly article becomes a children's book.
    • By having to change the medium, students will have to focus on the core information being presented and stay faithful to those concepts while figuring out how to present that information differently.
  • Build a Wiki
    • ​This could be a good activity for the entire class or at least a group project. Students should construct a wiki in the vein of Wikipedia about a topic, including an introduction/summary, key points in the history/development of the topic, and references. WikispacesWikidot, or PBWorks are possible hosting platforms. 
    • Not only will students have to research a topic and process the information into a new form, they will also get to exercise their technology skills and become acquainted with the backend of what powers their would-be favorite source.
  • Fix a Wiki
    • Students should locate an article on Wikipedia that's in bad shape. Have them save a copy of its original state (so that you can compare their additions) and then start editing the page to go further in-depth, to provide citations where needed, to clarify statements, and whatever else needs to be done. (You might consider requiring a minimum number of changes.) 
    • The Wikipedia:Cleanup page lists the different categories of needed revision, including disambiguation, stubs that need expanding, referencing, controversy, and general cleanup like updates, even page translation.
    • Not only will students have to research a topic and process the information into a new form, they will also get to exercise their technology skills and become acquainted with the backend of what powers their would-be favorite source.
  • Annotated Bibliography/Resource Guide
    • Students will create an annotated bibliography of resources with which to stay current on a topic. Unlike a regular bibliography of articles and other discrete sources of information, this should focus on places to acquire those articles and updates, or even useful apps or other tools that would benefit the subject. The annotation could explain what kind of information each source provides, who provides the updates, how often the source is updated, etc.
    • Students will essential provide themselves with a resource list for their own future reference on their chosen topic. They will have to exercise information literacy practices to determine trustworthy and current sources, especially when these sources are coming from the web.
  • Be the Teacher
    • A variation of a presentation, students (possibly in pairs or small groups) will be assigned a topic to take responsibility for teaching to the class. They should be able to summarize and explain a concept or assigned reading and lead a discussion as well as answer classmates' questions.
    • Teaching others helps reinforce concepts for the teacher. Because unplanned questions or topics may come up in the discussion, students will need to be extra-familiar with their topic.
  • Topic Exploration
    • Have students start with an article for a relevant topic (popular or scholarly) and first identify key concepts, phrases, studies, and people mentioned in it, including the author and publisher of the piece. They can pursue each tangent, branching out mind map-style, to find more information on those concepts and people, e.g. what other articles has this person written, what other articles (popular and scholarly) exist about this or that topic, what professional societies or government organizations have a role to play in that topic, and so on.
  • Book/Film Review
    • ​Students should watch/read a fictional film/book that relates to the topic of study. Have them analyze what the fictional story gets correct and incorrect, as supported by the external evidence they acquire through research. For an extra literary analysis twist, ask them to argue whether they think the mistakes were deliberate choices or not, and whether they help or hurt the message overall.
  • Blog Reflections
    • Each week or every couple of weeks, require students to post to a class blog (or possibly their own individual blog created for the class) reflecting on a subject that piqued their interest. Have them use outside sources as references to further explore that topic, but also multimedia (images, embedded video). Variation: for any given topic, students may only post images that they feel reflect or encapsulate or explain the topic. Possible free blog platforms include Tumblr, Wordpress, and Blogspot
    • Tech tip: Wordpress & Blogspot/Blogger would work as unified class blogs, to which each student is added as an author. If students create their own blogs, however, you can easily follow them through their RSS feeds (Feedly is a popular RSS reader available through browser and app). Tumblr, on the other hand, makes it very easy to follow other blogs and have all new entries appear in your own dashboard in chronological order, and would be a better choice for individual blogs.
    • In addition to researching a topic of their choosing, students have to exercise their technology skills in creating and sharing content to post online, regardless of the exact platform. A lesson on copyright and fair use would pair well with this assignment.
  • Build a Website
    • As a class or in groups, students should create a website that serves as an information portal to a topic. The site should include at least a homepage plus other sub-pages as needed. Possible free site platforms include: Wix, Moonfruit, Yola, or Weebly. Wordpress.com and Blogger/Blogspot are both blog-centric for the landing page, but do support the creation of other regular pages. This could be useful if you had the students keep a blog reflecting on their progress as they go. 
    • Bonus level: incorporate Google Analytics to see whether their page starts getting any traction (or if not, at least they'll see what kind of information is collected about them when they visit webpages).
    • Like other online assignments, students have to become familiar with creating digital content, including potentially basic HTML. These skills will help them be more comfortable going beyond Word documents and PowerPoint presentations in general, and could be applied to creating online portfolios to promote themselves to future colleges or employers as well.
  • Scholarly Conversation
    • Have students locate a scholarly article and follow up on 2-3 articles that were referenced. Have them next locate 2 articles that reference the first article they found. Have them analyze the articles' and authors' relationship to each other. Are all the articles closely related or identical in subject matter, or is there some surprising divergence? Where are all the authors based? What do these things suggest about the nature of academic/scholarly writing?
  • Primary vs Secondary
    • Have students locate 2 related articles, one a primary source (whether a historical artifact, piece of literature, experimental report, interview, etc) and one a secondary source (literature review, nonfiction book, newspaper/magazine article, etc). Students should analyze what kinds of information each presents and how; what are the limits of each?; what are the pros/cons of each type of source?. 
    • This would work well as a smaller warm-up assignment into a larger research project to get students thinking about primary vs secondary sources of information for that discipline.