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Library Instructors' Toolkit : Library Assignment Ideas

Library Assignment Ideas

Some approaches below could be adapted for an in-session activity or a course assignment.

  • Identify a statistic quoted in an article, website, or other information source, relating to your course, that you feel needs further explanation, verification, etc.  For example, are there footnotes or references that may be tracked down in order to discover the methods used to arrive at the statistic?  If not, how might your class go about finding sources of information to either support or refute the figure in question?

  • Find an article from a popular press publication (e.g., The New York Times, Science News) that reports on an issue addressed in your class. Ask the class to track down the original scholarly source of the information and answer the following questions: is the information in the popular article accurate? Why would you rely on one of the articles instead of the other? 

  • Identify a “myth” or controversial claim related to a topic in your course, and research the origins of this claim.  Where do they come from?  Are there reputable sources that either refute or support it?  Are there expert arguments to be found on either or both sides?

  • Trace a concept related to course or discipline, and how it has been defined over time or within different communities by searching across various information sources. 
  • Attempt to solve a real-world problem (works well within STEM or business classes) such as a flaw in a product or a business model that could be improved upon.  Draw information from news, scholarly articles, government and/or business sources to work toward possible solutions.

  • Identify an important scholar in your discipline.  Ask students to contribute to a biography and / or a bibliography about the individual, or a bibliography of the individual’s body of research. 

  • Use a citation database (Web of Science or Scopus) to identify articles that have cited an article that is assigned in your class.  Ask students to consider how each of the articles uses the cited article and write about its importance within the discipline.   

  • Identify primary sources relevant to answering a question in class in order to become familiar with contexts in which primary sources must be understood for perspective and bias. 

  • Complete an annotated bibliography on a topic for class, making sure to explain why each source is relevant and appropriate for the topic. 

  • Browse through several years of a major journal in your discipline. List the articles that are relevant to a topic in your class. Choose one of the articles, state the thesis and describe the sources the author used for evidence to support the thesis. Are those sources available at Northwestern?
  • Search for and identify research to update a literature review done years prior on a topic pertinent to your class.  Why were some resources included and not others?  What criteria were used to evaluate resources? 

  • Ask your students to track a piece of legislation from inception to final resolution, including debates, hearings, political and social contexts.