Students appreciate the specificity and it pushes them to notice the details of the research process. Below are some tips:
It's informative to hear what students observe in footnotes, and almost more importantly, what they don't. Have students look at what source(s) the author uses to support her assertion, how and why. For example, how do scholars develop assertions when there is little documentation to work with?
Not only does this assignment combine research and writing, but it also teaches students about how information is created and the vetting (or not!) process involved in publication. You can build into the assignment an exploration of quality control in scholarly publishing, and how peer review works, and issues of bias and editorial control in popular publishing, and websites.
Ask students to do a writing assignment comparing the writing of a public intellectual in something like Atlantic Monthly or the New Yorker, and a scholarly article about the same topic. Critique the differences of the approaches. Explore how the footnotes and citations affect the argument and the writing.
Their research proposal should address how their work will complement work that has already been done. This project helps students understand the need for situating new work in the existing literature of the field.
Here are some ideas:
Give them assignments that must start in a certain resource. Ask them to find and note subject headings and keywords that will help them continue with the information gathering. Here are some ideas:
We've found several other libraries that have assignment ideas on their websites, and many of their ideas are VERY good, so the links below are worth checking out.