Ask students to document their search process and sources to help students become familiar with databases, the importance of search terms, and how to properly format references.


  • Pick a sufficiently narrow topic or term and ask students to:
    • identify 3 articles that are likely to be relevant to that topic
    • list which database(s) they used and why they found those databases appropriate
    • list their search terms
    • provide the bibliographic information, properly formatted, for all 3 articles
  • Build on the former activity by asking students to read and summarize the abstracts of the papers they found during their research process.
  • An alternative assignment: after students have written a brief response paper to an issue, text, artwork, etc. ask them to write a second paper, based on their research of the issue/text/artwork, in which they
    • choose 2 or 3 sources
    • summarize the views in those sources
    • properly cite those sources
    • and state how their own views are in line with or contrary to the scholarly views.


  • An assignment that makes the steps of a research process explicit helps students better master these skills.