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Assignments That Promote Critical Thinking





1. Prepare a bibliography of books, journals and web sites with evaluative annotations.


Provide guidelines on resources:

  • You can use these web resources (ex: 3 websites, government sites, library databases, etc.
  • You cannot use these: (ex: wikipedia, etc.)
  • You must use: (ex: 4 journal articles, 1 magazine article, 3 web sites, 3 books, etc.)

2. Prepare a guide to the information sources on a particular subject.  This may be presented as a group project to the rest of the class.

Use one of the Library's Research and Course Guides as a starting point for research on a topic.  Includes specialized reference materials, web resources, specific databases, etc.

3. Compare how two different disciplines discuss the same topic by finding articles from the journal literature of each discipline.

Use the Databases subject listing to identify discipline-specific databases and start searching for articles.  Look for a "peer-reviewed" limit in each database.

4. Compare the discussion of a particular research study in the popular and scholarly press.  Students compare the relationship between the popular article and original study on which it was based.

Use Evaluating Periodicals from the Library's Research Tutorial.

Use the Articles and Databases subject listing to start searching for articles.  Look for a "peer-reviewed" limit in each database.

> Is Your Journal Scholarly? Helmke Library, Purdue University (Checklist)

5. Compare two journal aricles that discuss the same topic from different points of view.

Use the Articles and Databases to search for articles.  Assist with suggestions for keywords to use in searching; using the words "pro" and "con" does not usually work. 

Include keywords in your searches such as: benefits, issues, advantages, disadvantages.

Each topic will be different so think of words from either side of the issue (ex: stem cell research and ethics)

6. Read an editorial and find facts to support or contradict.

Use Newspapers on the Web to find an editorial.

Look for sections on editorials or opinions or use the keywords "editorial" or "opinion" in a search.

For local issues, the Area Research Center on the Library's third floor has many of the local newspapers for Dunn, Barron and Pepin Counties.

Use the Articles and Databases to search for articles to support or contradict the editorial.

Use the Stout Library Catalog to search for books to support or contradict the editorial.

7. Research a topic using primary and secondary sources.  Contrast the sources, their content and treatment of the topic.


8. Compare the results of searching the same precise topic on one or more Internet search engines and a library database(s).


Use Searching the Web for finding search engines.

Use the Articles and Databases for databases.

Googling to the Max--Exercises UC-Berkeley (Handout)

> Investigating Search Engines Washington State University (Activity)

9. Research a controversial topic using a variety of sources.  Discuss how the different types of sources (e.g. newspapers, websites, news magazines, academic journals, discussion lists) treat the topic.

Start at the Library Home Page; use the tabs (ex: Articles, Books, etc.) to determine which tool to use for searching.

Give guidelines as to which formats to cover (ex: one of each--newspaper, journal article, discussion list, etc.)

10. Examine several journals in a discipline (online and in print).

Work with a librarian to develop a list of journals.

  • Avoid problems with title changes, unavailability, etc.
  • Determine the best databases to use to locate the online journals. 
  • Identify titles that are only available in print in the library.

Use Search@UW to determine the availability of a specific title. It also has a Category listing of journals, but is not entirely reliable or easy to use.

11. Compare an online magazine article in html format with the same exact article in pdf or print format. Choose one with graphics and/or bibliography.
12. Compare the treatment of a topic from a specialized encyclopedia and from a general encyclopedia or a book on the same topic.

Use Credo Reference Stout Users Only

Use Specialized Encyclopedias

Use general encyclopedias (World Book, Britannica, etc.) in Library's Reference Area, first floor, "A" call number section.

13. Select a topic on which a review article was written a number of years ago; update that review.

Use the Articles and Databases to find a review article.  Use literature review as keywords in your search.  Once a review article is found, search your topic without those keywords, and limit by date to get updated materials.

Use Search@UW to search for books to support or contradict the editorial.  Limit by date to find more current materials.

14. Evaluate a relevant web site based on specific criteria, including accuracy, comprehensiveness, authority, bias, ease of use, visual style.  Compare a number of web sites representing government, personal, commercial, and scholarly sites.

> Worksheet for Evaluating Web Sites  UW-Madison
> Evaluating Information Sources Worksheet  Washington State University
> Web Page Evaluation Checklist UC-Berkeley

15. Submit a research log with the assignment for which the research was undertaken. 

Include source (database, Google, Dogpile, website), keywords and search statements used.

Database Research Log form with example  Capella University

16. Research a particular topic in the literature of the 1970s and 1980s.  Research the same topic in current literature.  Discuss the evolution of the field based on this exercise.

Use Search@UW to search for books.  Use the Limit by date feature to search for materials published during a period of time and/or to get updated materials.

Use the Articles and Databases to find articles.  Use the limit by date feature to search for articles published during a period of time and/or to get updated materials.


From: Suggestions for Library Assignments July 27, 2007