Assigning Inquiry – Findings from new report suggest how to improve research papers

Want to improve the quality of your students' research papers? Start with the assignment instructions!

Project Information Literacy just released a new report, “Assigning Inquiry: How Handouts for Research Assignments Guide Today’s College Students.” The study analyzed over 190 course-related research assignments in 2- and 4-year colleges across the U.S.  The study finds that:

  • While many professors describe the structure of the research paper, few guide students to find and use a range of research sources.
  • Despite the fact that many students use sources found on the open Web, very few assignments mentioned Internet sources at all.
  • Related to academic integrity, only 18% of assignments mentioned unethical uses of information. Of those, 75% did so in a “cursory fashion.”

The study recommends that research assignments should inform students “about what conducting research means as a form of intellectual inquiry and discovery.” This includes clarifying, defining, or framing research in the context of the assignment, and encouraging students to explore a wide variety of information sources.

Don’t have time to revisit your research assignments? Contact a librarian who can provide feedback and suggest changes to improve the quality of your student’s research papers.