More on Designing Research Handouts–Advice from Project Information Literacy

Last week I shared a handout I’d designed to help business communication students tackle secondary research, especially library research.

This week, Olga Hart, Coordinator of Library Instruction at the University of Cincinnati, shared a new report with the UC faculty on exactly this topic. Turns out my handout could have used a few additions.

According to the report,* which was issued by the team directing Project Information Literacy, a national study on information literacy at the University of Washington, instructors’ handouts on research . . .

  • tend to focus only on the “standard research paper” and not enough on adapting the research to different media, audiences, and situations;
  • focus too narrowly on the physical location of material (e.g., on certain library shelves) and not enough on “scholarly research databases, the library catalog, the Web, . . . or any other resource”;
  • do not give students enough guidance about which databases to use (if they gave any guidance on using databases at all);
  • do not help students understand plagiarism;
  • rarely recommend consulting a librarian or the instructor if students needed help with their research.

While I believe bcomm teachers do a better job than most of designing assignments that require adapting the research to different media and audiences, some of us (like me) may be falling short in the other ways described in the report.

If you’ve got a helpful handout on research, please share it. As students’ research skills decline and the need for information literacy increases, we need all the good advice we can get.

*Alison J. Head and Michael B. Eisenberg, “Assigning Inquiry: How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today’s College Students,”  Project Information Literacy Progress Report, University of Washington’s Information School, July 13, 2010 (41 pages, PDF, 2.14MB).

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