Model Rubric for paper/project sources (pdf)



Research Paper Alternatives

Research Paper Alternatives

Ask a question or assign a topic or, even better, ask the students to come up with their own relevant questions or topics. Then assign one or more of the following.

  • Describe the differences between primary and secondary sources, and identify why and when each type would be appropriate to use.
  • Identify key issues or scholars in a discipline (usually through Reference books).
  • Write a letter (or email message) to an expert, person from another culture, Congressman, etc. asking specific questions about the topic. (Have the student explain why they’re asking that particular person.)
  • Interview an expert on the topic, a person from another culture with a different perspective, etc. (Allow the student to find the interviewee and tell why s/he chose that person along with an evaluative response to the interview.)
  • Analyze a key publication in discipline.
  • Write an abstract of a journal article.

Paraphrasing=using different words to say the same idea;
Summarizing=using fewer, different words to say the same idea;
Abstracting=using fewer, but the same words (the “key” words) to say the same idea;
Indexing=listing the key/most important ideas alphabetically (do they use the same words as in the article, or work from a list/thesaurus, or come up with their own?)

Have students work in small groups on the same short article, and display their efforts to the whole class to see. Compare, contrast, discuss.  This exercise could lead to students better understanding what databases do, and how important it is to brainstorm keywords.  Compare the way two different disciplines handle the same topic.

  • Seek information in simulations of real-life projects (e.g.: business students evaluate a proposal to automate an office).
  • Keep a journal of questions they have as the class progresses and write down how they would go about finding answers to these questions “in real life.”
  • Go to the Library Reference Desk with their question and ask how to find answers, follow one or more suggestions of the librarian, and describe what they did, what they found, and how they felt about the experience.
  • Search a database to find references (or answers) to their question, tell how they chose a database, explain their searching process, explain why it was or was not satisfactory, and explain how they would improve this process in the future.
  • Find three good sources on their topic using three different research methods (e.g., use a database to find a full-text article; use an Internet search engine to find a web site; find an expert and interview in person, by phone, or in writing) and come to class prepared or use BlackBoard journaling or discussion board functions to discuss their research process. What problems and difficulties did they have? What did they learn about the research process that they didn’t know before? If they were to do this again, how would they do it differently?
  • Search a discipline-specific database and find articles which would update the information from their text or other required reading. (Define appropriate databases and the qualities which would make articles suitable for either the level of the students or for the professional level.)
  • Create an annotated, evaluative “bibliography” (that doesn’t necessarily include only books) of 5 sources of information on the topic.
  • Find a movie, video, documentary, etc. on the topic, watch it, and evaluate it, then tell what they learned about the topic from watching the movie.
  • After the instructor explains how to evaluate a web site (with examples, good and poor), students will find a web site on the topic and evaluate it according to relevant criteria.
  • Find two articles on their topic–one from a scholarly (or academic, professional, refereed, etc.) journal (using a specialized periodical database) and one from a popular periodical (using a general periodical index/database) . How are they different? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? When would they want to use an academic journal? A popular magazine? Are they primary or secondary sources, and how do they know?
  • Learn how to use a Web search engine. Develop a lesson plan to teach a high school student how to use the search engine to find relevant information on the topic. This could be in the form of a written paper, presentation, PowerPoint project, web page, posters, video, etc.
  • Working in groups, prepare a guide that introduces other students to information sources in the subject field.
  • Write a reflective opinion paper: find information that supports both the student writer’s opinion and alternative opinions.  It is important to care about something, yet be open enough to discover why they care (reflection) and why others care (do the research, evaluate it, and analyze it).  Then write a good synthesis with some suggestions for possible solutions. There is no separating “library” research from writing (or completing a project) or critical and reflective thinking.
  • Read and evaluate a case study of an information search and suggest alternatives to faulty procedures portrayed in the study.
  • Write a research paper, complete a project, or do a presentation.
  • Complete a tutorial on information literacy.
  • Additional assignment examples are at: California State University, Library Services, Assignment Clearinghouse and San Jose State University Library, Assignments that Incorporate Information Literacy by College and American Historical Association: Engaging Students in the Game of Research (by Theresa Mudrock)

Information Literacy Goals & Rationale


  • teach students and faculty concepts and frameworks for understanding information processes
  • foster the development and application of information literacy skills into all facets of students’ lives
  • develop and foster diverse methods of excellent teaching in information literacy
  • enhance collaborative relationships between classroom and library faculty and heighten the role of librarians as teachers
  • encourage the development of information literacy in the larger GVSU learning community


For graduates to operate successfully in a rapidly changing global society, they will need to understand how to find and use information effectively. A university must educate a student not only within a discipline but also for lifelong learning.

Average students have to have 15-16 repetitions of something before they learn it; bright students 8-9 repetitions, and gifted students 0-3.  Thus there is a strong need for information literacy to be integrated throughout the curriculum, both in General Education, majors, and graduate degrees.  We need to work toward the true integration of information literacy into Gen Ed and for information literacy to be included at the senior and graduate levels.

Amount of work time spent looking for information in business:

Creating Effective Library Assignments

Creating Effective Library Assignments

We welcome opportunities to discuss library resources and to teach information literacy skills and concepts. If you are incorporating a library assignment into your course, your

Design, Define, Work Through:

Please review this list of suggestions on ways to create effective library assignments.

  • Design your assignment so that students are asked to find information and use it in a meaningful way, applying information and constructing meaning, not just retrieving facts or regurgitating them.
  • Clearly define the task and identify any sources students should or should not use.
  • Define search tools and sources carefully, as most of our authoritative sources—books, journal articles, databases—are “online” sources
    • Information may be limited and only available in popular magazines, newspapers, or the web
    • Locating scholarly articles or a number of different sources might not be possible, depending on the topic
    • In some cases, there may be little or nothing published about the topic, depending on how recent the event is
    • Personal interviews with experts on a topic might be an option for students to consider if print or electronic information is limited
  • Work through the assignment yourself, even if you’re just revising an old assignment, making sure that the assignment does what you want it to do and that the Library has the resources you’re requiring students to use.
  • Give students a copy of the assignment. If you have very specific requirements, include a list of resources you’d like them to consult. Also, check to see whether the Library has already created a guide for your subject area.
  • Put materials on course reserve if students have to use the same resource. (This is not true for reference books since they do not circulate.)
  • In assigning current or local topics, it is helpful to keep in mind that:
  • Build in “critical thinking” skills to library research assignments, such as:

    • Credibility, reliability, and authoritativeness of resources
    • Distinguishing between primary and secondary source materials
    • Development of a focus statement or hypothesis supported by quality information

Working with your liaison:

  • See the Subject Resource pages for liaisons
  • Consult with your liaison when designing a library-related assignment, before finalizing it: engage in dialog to clarify the
    • Goals and objectives of an assignment
    • Your expectations of students to successfully complete the assignment
    • Your expectations of the library in supporting the learning outcomes of students engaged in the assignment
    • levels of research–what types of search tools and resources do you expect students to use (course reserve, books, ebooks, articles–scholarly/peer-reviewed or popular, websites)?
  • Do the assignment yourself.
  • Send a copy of the assignment to your liaison before you give your students the assignment so that we can not only be prepared for the students but also participate in the assignment at the level you desire. (For example, do we answer the question, or do we tell the student to find the answer on his/her own?)
  • Schedule a course-related instructional session or discuss the assignment with your department’s liaison librarian if your assignment is particularly complex.
  • Contact your liaison or the Reference Desk if, in the course of your students’ assignment, you need to clarify something with the librarians or if your students are experiencing a problem that we can help solve.
  • Place requests for new library books not owned by GVSU at least a full semester (3 months) in advance of giving the assignment.
  • Work with your liaison librarian when choosing required readings (course reserves) to ensure that the best possible copy is available.

    Remind Students:

  • Give students enough time to complete the assignment successfully. Remind students that even under the best circumstances, research takes time.  Have them use the University of Minnesota’s Assignment Calculator.
  • Encourage students to stop by the Reference Desk or to schedule an individual consultation with the liaison library faculty member if they need assistance.
  • Remind students that both print and electronic sources can be useful; check the availability of sources immediately before giving the assignment.
  • The GVSU Library is no longer a centralized library; each location holds materials that are not duplicated at other locations. Remind your students to plan accordingly and update your own notes/instructions/assignments.
  • Allow time for document delivery and for materials in storage to be retrieved.
  • Review the definition of plagiarism with students, including examples; review how to avoid it and consequences if they do not.

Common Problems in Library Assignments: avoiding these typical problems in library assignments will make your students’ experience less frustrating and more enjoyable.  The experience you plan for your students in the Library should be a positive experience!

  • Refrain from sending students to use Library equipment (e.g., microfilm readers) just for the sake of using it. They don’t really learn how to use it, and they keep serious scholars away from needed access to the equipment.
  • Avoid giving a large class the same exact assignment. Students may have trouble accessing the materials.
  • Use a complete or accurate name when referring to a source. For example, don’t tell your students to use Standard & Poor’s since S&P publishes many well-known reference books. Be more specific by asking them to use Standard and Poor’s Industry Surveys.
  • Avoid requiring a source that the library doesn’t own.
  • Don’t give students hard-to-answer trivia questions (scavenger hunts) since librarians usually have to give students the answers.
  • Forego giving generic assignments from a handbook or textbook, unless you check ahead of time to make sure they work.
  • Refrain from asking students to look for a needle in a haystack; ask them to use the online catalog, periodical databases, or web sites in a productive manner.
  • Don’t instruct your students to use another institution’s library without having one of our library faculty contact the other institution to make appropriate arrangements.
  • NEVER require or suggest that students collect or turn in original materials (color illustrations, magazine ads, etc.). Make it clear to students that you will ONLY accept scanned copies, printouts, or photocopies for such assignments. Otherwise, you will encourage vandalism of library materials by at least some of the students.

Remember that the experience you plan for your students in the Library should be positive!  Because good library learning experiences reinforce classroom learning, we are more than happy to work with you in structuring assignments that meet your needs and serve to promote lifelong use of libraries.

Related links:
Creating Effective Library Assignments (University of Maryland University Libraries)

Creating an Information Literacy Plan for Programs & Units

Creating an Information Literacy Plan for Programs & Units: Discussion Questions

Average students have to have 15-16 repetitions of something before they learn it; bright students 8-9 repetitions, and gifted students 0-3.  Thus there is a strong need for information literacy to be integrated throughout the curriculum, both in Gen Ed, and majors, and graduate degrees. Gen Ed includes freshman to junior-level classes. There are also courses required of all majors/grad degrees.  We need to not only work toward the true integration of IL into Gen Ed, but also for IL to be included at the senior and graduate levels.

If your department or school is beginning to think about an information literacy plan, you may wish to center the initial discussion around the following questions.

  1. What does information literacy mean to you, especially as (geologists/historians/?)?
  2. Is information literacy a process? If so, how would you delineate that process? How is the process different for scholars/professionals and students?
  3. Are information technology skills a part of information literacy? How?
  4. a.    Are there specific sources or tools that students should be familiar with as graduates of the program? When (as freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors) should they learn a) what they are, and b) how to use them?

    b.    What skills should students in your unit’s General Education classes have?  Do these differ in Foundation, Cultural Emphasis, or Thematic courses?

  5. Do (sociologists/marketers/?) use a specific style manual, especially for citing references? What is it? When should students learn about it? Who should teach that?
  6. How do you, as (nurses/teachers/?), evaluate and think critically about information? Are the criteria the same for students? Who will teach them, and how?
  7. Do students in your program generate new knowledge? When (at what level)? How do they “publish”–via student scholarship day, papers in journals, conferences, etc.?
  8. What does “wise or ethical” use of information entail? How and when will students learn this?

See the ALA/ACRL Instruction Section: Information Literacy in the Disciplines (links to standards and curricula developed by accrediting agencies, professional associations, and institutions of higher education)

Preventing & Detecting Plagiarism (for Faculty)

foxtrot cartoon

“This way it’s an homage, not a ripoff.”
FoxTrot (c) 2003 Bill Amend. Used by permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

Prevention Detection Resources

The best defense against plagiarism is: PREVENTION

  • Define plagiarism for students (using words, phrases, sentences, ideas, formulas, musical notation, etc., not their own, without noting the source; using material someone else created and signing their name to it). Include the policy from the GVSU Student Code.
  • Make clear the consequences of plagiarizing.
  • Divide large writing assignments into smaller sections which students hand in at different points in the semester.
  • Consider alternatives to the research paper: annotated bibliographies, a paper on the research process itself, a journal or essay on how the students changed as a result of their new knowledge.
  • Ask students to bring in a proposed list of references at the beginning of the project–this is a perfect opportunity to teach about appropriate search tools available through the Library (e.g., article databases, the Online Catalog, Web Sites by Subject), as well as emphasizing the importance of evaluating resources and citing sources.
  • Have students write a page with a quotation and a paraphrased paragraph, cited in the style preferred by your discipline. Explain that crediting others’ ideas is essential in the real world work setting as well as in academia and prevents expensive lawsuits, failing grades, or other dire consequences.
  • Ask a Writing Center consultant to talk to your class about paraphrasing, citing, etc.
  • Require a bibliography or reference list.
  • Ask students to hand in copies of their source material. Warning: This is expensive for the student. Never ask for the originals; accept only photocopies, printouts, or other copied formats.
  • If you suspect that a student has plagiarized, photocopy the paper, white out random words, and ask the student to fill in the blanks in front of you. If s/he can come up with the missing words or appropriate synonyms, it is likely that s/he wrote the original.
  • Contact the liaison library faculty member (see the Subject Resource pages) to your academic department for a consultation.
  • GVSU has integrated SafeAssign, a service within BlackBoard that helps prevent plagiarism.


  • GVSU has integrated SafeAssign, a service within BlackBoard that helps prevent plagiarism.
  • Use Altavista or another meta-search engine to find a phrase or sentence that seems suspicious. Type the words exactly as they are written, in quotes, and click on Search. Most of what students use is found on the web, and using a good, comprehensive search engine can typically find all that you need. Charity S. Peak, Reference Librarian, Regis University – Colorado Springs (used with permission)
  • Use the full text article databases such as Academic Search Premier (Ebsco): put a couple of unique phrases such as “genetically engineered food” and “Roundup Ready Soybean” in the search boxes and change the drop-down search field to “Text.” Click in the Limit Results to: “Full text” box. Most databases will find full text with these phrases, even if they are not exact quotes.
  • Students might cut and paste sections of full-text articles from online databases and then use MS Word’s autosummarize feature to reword the sections. They would then string these together with little bits of their own. Type in sections of the auto-summarized text and search the databases to locate the source. Apparently Word leaves enough unique vocabulary or phrasing to allow this. I think that one of the main points is that this is a ‘teaching moment.’ Yes, there is deliberate plagiarism but often students plagiarize when they don’t mean to. They need to learn what is valid and legitimate usage and what is not. Patti Brommelsiek, Reference Librarian, Bakersfield College Library (used with permission)


Copyright, Plagiarism & E-reserves I-tech (Integrating Technology into Teaching and Learning), Grand Valley State University.

How teachers can detect & reduce plagiarism
Web resources
Guides for students

Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices (Council of Writing Program Administrators,

A Faculty Guide to Cyber-Plagiarism University of Alberta Libraries

Why students plagiarize
Preventing plagiarism
Reporting plagiarism
Paper mills
Handouts for students
Recommended resources

Plagiarism and Cyberplagiarism Grace Hauenstein Library, Aquinas College

Student resources
Faculty resources:
General Issues
Specific Suggestions for Assignments
Good Guides for Teaching about Cyberplagiarism
Plagiarism Detection Sites
Cyberplagiarism Bibliography

Plagiarism Help for Faculty Ingram Library, State University of West Georgia

Information for your students about plagiarism
Information for you, the educator about how to detect it

Thinking about Plagiarism by Nick Carbone, New Media Consultant, Bedford/St. Martin’s

Academic Integrity in the Classroom, Resources for Instructors (University of Michigan)


Harris, Robert A. Plagiarism handbook: strategies for preventing, detecting, and dealing with plagiarism. Los Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2001. MAIN Stacks PN167 .H37 2001

Harris, Robert A. Using sources effectively: strengthening your writing and avoiding plagiarism. Los Angeles, CA: Pyrczak Publishing, 2002. MAIN Stacks LB 2369 .H37 2002

Lathrop, Ann and Kathleen Foss. Student cheating and plagiarism in the Internet era: a wake-up call. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 2000. MAIN Stacks LB3609 .L28 2000

Avoiding Plagiarism (for students)

Avoiding Plagiarism

foxtrot cartoon

“This way it’s an homage, not a ripoff.”
FoxTrot (c) 2003 Bill Amend. Used by permission of Universal Press Syndicate. All rights reserved.

PLAGIARISM: using anyone else’s ideas, words, graphics, music, or other material without giving them credit (citing the material).  Paraphrasing and sampling, when the sources are not cited, are examples of plagiarism.


Carlos and Eddie’s Guide to Bruin Success with Less Stress (UCLA): intellectual property, file sharing, citing and documenting sources, academic dishonesty

Indiana University:

Plagarism Policy (Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice, State University of New Jersey Rutgers-Camden)

A Visit to Copyright Bay (University of St. Francis)

Academic Integrity in the Classroom, Resources for Students (University of Michigan)


You Quote It, You Note It (Vaughan Memorial Library, Acadia University)

Academic Integrity Quiz (from University of Alberta)

Plagiarism Court : a Flash tutorial and a quiz from Fairfield University

Plagiarism & Academic Integrity at Rutgers University

Exercise on Citation and Paraphrase from Grinnell College Writing Lab: the first section provides models on how writers incorporate words and ideas from a source. The second section asks you to perform the same tasks modeled in the first section. That is, it asks you to paraphrase, cite a long quotation, cite words or short phrases, and cite ideas.

Amy's Info-Lit Links