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Assignment Design for Research and Writing

Resources to reference when creating research and writing assignments to maximize clarity and accessibility.

Research Parameters

None     ♦     Specified Sources     ♦     Peer-Reviewed Sources

  • Specified Sources: What kind of sources do you want students to use or not use--be specific and explain.
  • Internet Sources:
    • Are you prohibiting the use of “Internet sources?” That wording often confuses students who think that the prohibited internet sources include using the library catalog or one of the articles they find within it. It might help to specify where it’s okay to find information to use. 
      • There are legitimate sources found online in government, association, and other expert websites. Sometimes they use less academic language which can be useful to many MICA students. 
      • Google Scholar is a tool we suggest to find sources that Decker Library doesn’t subscribe to. There are sometimes links to PDFs that are stored outside of paywalled databases.
      • Decker Library’s catalog is a great place to find online, academic resources -- however there is content from newspapers and popular magazines included. Let your students know if these are okay to use.
  • Peer-reviewed Resources:
    • If you’re asking students to include peer-reviewed sources in their bibliography, make sure you define “peer review” for them. Not all sources in library databases are from peer-reviewed journals, so your students will need to know what they’re looking for. Further, there may be book reviews in peer-reviewed journals, and your students should understand that a book review does not count as a peer-reviewed source.
    • Many peer-reviewed resources are difficult to read for someone who isn’t a subject expert. If your student hasn’t done a lot of work on that subject, a reader or introductory text may be better suited to the assignment. 
  • Wikipedia:
    • Students usually know they shouldn’t use Wikipedia for their coursework, but secretly use it anyway. We advise getting this secret out into the open.
    • Wikipedia is great for background research and for finding sources linked as references. We recommend it for that use. 
    • It’s not something that should be cited. Not because it’s online or because it’s open-source--it’s because no encyclopedia should be cited in academic work (such as Encyclopædia Britannica). 
      • Speaking of Encyclopædia Britannica--did you know that a study in Nature found that Wikipedia is nearly as reliable as EB?  

Decker Library at the Maryland Institute College of Art | Location: 1401 W. Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore, MD 21217 | Mailing: 1300 W. Mount Royal Ave., Baltimore, MD 21217

Research Help: 410-225-2273 / | General Questions: 410-225-2272 /

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