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The Effective Research Assignment

What to Avoid

Plagiarism & Citing

Suggested Resources


What to Avoid


  • Assuming student experience: Don’t assume that your students have experience conducting scholarly research or completing research assignments.
  • Requiring unavailable resources: New resources and ways of accessing information regularly replace old ones. Make sure the Libraries still own the resources that you require students to use.
  • Requiring all students to use the same resource: Make sure the Libraries own a sufficient number of copies, or place a copy (or more) on Reserve.
  • Unclearly specified resource types: If you want students to use only peer reviewed journal articles to complete a research assignment, do not simply list “periodicals” as the required resource type. Periodicals are comprised of non-scholarly magazines and newspapers, as well as scholarly journals. If you are requiring your students to conduct primary research, clearly define the meaning of primary sources within your discipline. For example, primary sources are not the same in the disciplines of history and literature.
  • The Portal vs. the Web: Students access the Libraries’ databases and online catalog through the Libraries’ website, and not the Edison Portal.
  • Assuming students know how to cite: Discuss how to cite, and direct students to citation guides, both in print and online. The ESC Libraries own print copies of all major citation style guides, and provide links to reliable online citation style guides from the Libraries' website.
  • Scavenger Hunts vs. Library Research Orientation: Today, most scholarly research is available online rather than in print. Rather than assigning a scavenger hunt, arrange a Research Instruction session for your class, or require students to meet with a librarian for a brief Library Research Orientation, either in groups or on a one-on-one basis. Students can either stop by the Library or make an appointment with a Librarian.
  • Not allowing students to use the Internet: Think in terms of the quality of a resource, rather than its medium. Keep in mind that:
    • Both print and electronic sources are necessary when researching most topics.
    • Most of the Library’s journal articles are only available electronically through the databases.
    • Some books and periodicals are only available electronically.
    • Some information is available on the Internet before it is available in print.
    • Most government and current events information is available only on the free Web.
    • Databases and eBooks (online books) are technically electronic or Web-based sources. Instructing students NOT to use Web sources places a large number of extant scholarly sources off limits. If you only want students to use resources retrieved from the Libraries’ databases and online catalog, clearly state such.
    • The content of a particular book title, journal article, or government document is the exact same both electronically and in print.
Instead of requiring students to use a certain number of print versus electronic sources, require them to use a certain number of scholarly (e.g., peer reviewed journal articles) vs. non-scholarly sources (e.g., free Internet sources.) Better yet, require them to use reliable free Internet sites. Websites that end in .edu, .gov, and .mil are the most reliable.

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