FYS and Library Assignment Ideas

Table of Contents

FYS & Library Assignment Ideas

Keep in mind that many of these assignments can work during either semester. There are several books and articles available to help also when creating an assignment. Contact a librarian to help you design an assignment to meet your goals.

Orientation to the Libraries:

  • Work with a librarian to craft a "scavenger hunt" assignment for your class. Students can work in groups or it can be designed for individual work.
  • Make the library tour collaborative: assign pairs or individuals to explore & learn about a specific bit of one of the library buildings or website or databases, and have them report on it to the class. Challenge them to discover something new to YOU (or to the librarian).
  • If you do not do a tour of each library, have your students go to the opposite library and do a “self tour” or have them spend two hours studying at the opposite library. Have them write about their experience. Or assign this as a group project, challenging the students to discover something that maybe the other groups didn’t know.
  • Have them email the librarian before the tour with questions they may have about the library and its services.
  • Brainstorm good questions when presenting an assignment to a librarian, in person or with Ask Us!. Have them role play asking for help, describing the assignment to a friend, or to another professor.
  • Have the students get a librarian to sign off on any assignment that requires use of the libraries.
  • Have groups explore the library’s website and report on different parts for one another.

Writing Assignments

Using Historical Databases

  • Research an historical topic using newspapers from New York Times and London Times. Contrast point of view.
  • Use a major newspaper from one of the databases listed below to find an article published on the date of their birth. Determine: name of the president; major national issue or concern; name of significant entertainer, etc.
  • Have students write the opening chapter for a historical novel, whereby they must research daily routine, customs, eating habits, rituals, dress, social status and other pertinent information related to a particular time period.
  • Research a topic using information published in different decades. Compare the changes that have occurred.( Reader’s Guide Retrospective or possibly Academic Search Premier)

Using Books and Book Reviews

  • Locate at least two lengthy reviews of books, films, recordings, etc., connected to the course. Compare the two reviews and discuss any biases displayed by the reviewers, as well as any misrepresentations or inaccuracies you find in the review. ( JSTOR or Academic Search Premier)
  • Another take on the above assignment is to have students locate and check-out one of the books included in the bibliography section of an assigned book. Have them use the library’s databases to find a review of their chosen book. Bring the book to class and provide an oral summary of the book review.

Evaluating Sources

  • Evaluate a relevant web site based on specific criteria based off the CRAAP test: currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. Students may be asked to compare a number of web sites representing government, personal, commercial, and scholarly sites.
  • Compare coverage of the same topic in:
    • Reference books, news sources, journals, the open web, government documents, BLOGs, YouTube

Critical Thinking Assignments – Based around Theme of Class

  • Over the course of a term – or a portion of a term – ask students to assemble a collection of materials related to an important idea or theme being discussed in class. These materials can be creative work such as short stories, poems, plays, or works of art or music. Alternatively the materials could be scholarly essays – or even websites. Students should write an introduction to the anthology in which they provide biographical material on each author and explain the rationale for including each item in their anthology. Anthologies can be shared on Moodle – but not photocopied en masse due to copyright restrictions. (From Smith College - http://www.smith.edu/libraries/services/faculty/infolit/assignments#anthology)
  • Each student in the class is given responsibility for dealing with a part of the subject of the course. He or she is then asked to:
    1. find out what the major reference sources on the subject are;
    2. find out "who's doing what where" in the field;
    3. list three major unresolved questions about the subject;
    4. prepare a 15 minute oral presentation to introduce this aspect of the subject to the class. (From Puget Sound - http://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/collins-memorial-library/services/faculty-services/instructional-services/assignment-ideas/)

Understanding Different Types of Sources

  • Locate a popular magazine article and a scholarly article on the same subject. Compare the two articles for content, style, bias, audience, etc. ( Academic Search Premier)
  • Find a scholarly article, read it closely, create a glossary of unfamiliar topics from the article, and create an abstract in "plain English." ( JSTOR – completely full-text and scholarly)
  • Give the students the literature review of a scholarly article and have them write the abstract.
  • Prepare a literature review for both sides of an argument.
  • Write a scholarly review of a key article or book for research topic:
    • (Summarizing, analyzing and evaluating sources)
  • Forecast the future of a specific controversy using a variety of sources. Discuss how the different types of sources (e.g. newspapers, websites, news magazines, academic journals, etc.) treat the topic.
  • Compare the treatment of a topic from a specialized encyclopedia, a general encyclopedia and Wikipedia. How are they similar? Different?
  • Assign the class to read a well footnoted scholarly article on a topic. Then ask each student to read one of the studies cited in the article. (You probably should divide this up to avoid many students using the same footnote). Allow enough time and latitude to allow for some items not being in the library - planning ahead will help here. How does the later article build upon and use the ideas of the former? Does the citation share or oppose the ideas of the later article? (From Smith College - http://www.smith.edu/libraries/services/faculty/infolit/assignments#anthology)
  • Compare how two different disciplines discuss the same topic by finding articles from the journal literature of each discipline (example, learning and memory in education vs. psychology). (From Florida Atlantic University - http://libguides.fau.edu/faculty-boca)
  • Compare two journal articles that discuss the same topic from different points of view. (From Florida Atlantic University - http://libguides.fau.edu/faculty-boca)
  • • Research a topic using primary and secondary sources. Contrast the sources, their content and treatment of the topic. (From Florida Atlantic University - http://libguides.fau.edu/faculty-boca)

Misc. Assignments

  • Ask each student to describe a career they envision themselves in and then research the career choice.
  • Have students divide up into teams to debate on an assigned topics. Have each group find information from: newspaper, magazine articles and scholarly articles. Have them find background information, statistics, etc.
  • Start with a news source and flesh out the journalist’s research: identify the original sources used, prepare a bibliography.
  • Trace an important citation forward in time:
    • (Citation patterns, scholarly conversations)
  • Update a good bibliography of literature review that relates to research topic.
  • Contextualize and/or identify the opposing views to a political cartoon, editorial opinion, iconic photograph, or advertisement.
  • Submit a research log with the assignment for which the research was undertaken.

Scavenger Hunt Assignment

  1. Take a picture of yourself outside of the Clemens/Alcuin library.
  2. Stop by the Clemens/Alcuin circulation desk (if you need help with these questions). Explain that you're doing a scavenger hunt before getting answers to the following questions.
    1. How long can a student check out a book?
    2. Can I return a book/DVD I borrowed from Alcuin Library to Clemens Library (and vise versa)?
    3. How long can a student check out a DVD?
    4. Can Bennies and Johnnies both come here to pick up interlibrary loan materials?
    5. Is there a librarian available right now?
  3. Take a picture of yourself with a librarian.
    1. Clemens Library
      1. What is their name?
      2. Get their signature. ____________________
    1. Alcuin Library
      1. What is their name?
      2. Get their signature. _____________________
  4. Find the book, "____________________" in the book catalog.
    1. Find the book on the shelves and take a picture of it and you.
    2. Write down the call numbers of the books to the immediate right and left of it.
      1. Call number of the book on the left:
      2. Call number of the book on the right:
    3. Books are arranged by subject. What seems to be the subject for that area of the library collection?
  5. Take a picture and write a description of the best place for an individual to study at:
    1. Clemens Library
    2. Alcuin Library
  6. Take a picture and write a description of the best place for a group to study at:
    1. Clemens Library
    2. Alcuin Library
  7. In the Academic Search Premier database, do a search to find a scholarly/peer-reviewed article about __________________________________. Once you've found an article, click on the title link and print the record page.
    1. What search terms did you use to find the article?
    2. Why did you select this article? (How did you know it was scholarly/peer-reviewed?)
  8. On the library website, find a library subject guide for your major/minor (if undecided pick a subject guide of a major that you are thinking of studying).
    1. Which guide is it, and how did you find it?
    2. List three recommended databases that it lists for your major/minor.
  9. What are three ways you can contact a librarian? Be specific!
    1. ____________________
    2. ____________________
    3. ____________________
  10. Write a summary (paragraph) of some cool things Clemens/Alcuin Library. (Take a picture of it if you can!)