Research Guidance Rubric

The Research Guidance Rubric is no longer maintained or supported by the University Libraries, and will be removed on January 4th, 2023.

The Research Guidance Rubric is a tool that assists GVSU faculty in the design of research assignments that guide their students toward effective research. This document advocates for assignments that give concrete and specific guidance on research methods. In most cases, we believe this is the best approach.

As librarians, we’re in a unique position to see that students don't always know what their professors might reasonably assume they know, and the sometimes implicit assumption that they can — and will benefit from — "figuring it out" on their own often leads to frustration, disengagement, and work beneath their potential. Steering students through research allows them to learn how to do research independently and critically.

What are the benefits of guided research assignments?

Research assignments that include effective guidance teach students to research like scholars and provide them with the tools and support to do so. This approach encourages engagement with disciplinary practice and provides a means of resisting the temptations of shortcutting and plagiarism. It also develops the information literacy skills that will serve students across disciplines and beyond the classroom. For more about information literacy, please see the library's Information Literacy Core Competencies.

What are the components of a guided research assignment?

  • Clear expectations about source requirements.
  • A clear rationale and context for resource requirements.
  • Process-orientation.
  • Library engagement.

Is it possible to give my students too much guidance in their research?

Yes. An assignment that dictates too rigidly how students do their research can also breed frustration and disengagement. We believe this grid will help you establish a framework of flexible guidance for research that accommodates the challenges and peculiarities that are unique to any given research project without "squarepegging" approaches or solutions.

How can the grid be used?

The Research Guidance Rubric for Assignment Design lists the above components of an effective research assignment in its vertical axis. Components with increasing levels of guidance are listed from left to right in the horizontal axis. As you design or review your assignment, find the descriptions in the grid that most accurately describe your assignment to 1) determine if there might be opportunities to provide students with more effective guidance and 2) find examples of what that guidance might look like.

Research Guidance Rubric for Assignment Design

Explanation/definition of sources and expectations

Guidance Level (0)

Guidance Level (1)

Guidance Level (2)

Guidance Level (3)

The assignment does not describe or explain sourcing expectations.

Some general guidelines for evaluating a source's appropriateness to the assignment are given.

 All relevant qualities of acceptable sources are listed (e.g., peer-reviewed or popular or trade, primary or secondary, qualitative or quantitative, recency)

All relevant qualities of acceptable sources are listed and clearly defined.


Inexact quantities are given for the required number of sources (e.g ., "several" or "an adequate number.")

The required number of sources is stated as a number or range of numbers.

The required number of sources is given as a range or the assignment gives a clear explanation of how a student will know when they have an adequate number of sources. 


Methods and tools for resource discovery are described in general terms (e.g ., "use the library.")

Methods and tools for resource discovery are described by broad type (e.g., "use a library database that includes scholarly articles.")

Methods and tools for resource discovery are discussed and/or demonstrated in detail.

Rationale and context for resource requirements

Guidance Level (0)

Guidance Level (1)

Guidance Level (2)

Guidance Level (3)

Resource requirements are neither linked to the assignment's learning objectives nor given any context-dependence.

Resource requirements are described as having learning value (e.g ., "It's important that you meet these requirements.") 

All resource requirements are linked to the assignment's stated learning objectives. 

Each resource requirement is linked to the assignment's stated learning objectives for reasons that are made clear.


Contextual exceptions to the resource requirements are mentioned as possible.

Contextually exceptional sourcing scenarios are discussed hypothetically.

Students are invited to discuss any unique sourcing circumstances with the professor and/or librarian.


Guidance Level (0)

Guidance Level (1)

Guidance Level (2)

Guidance Level (3)

The assignment doesn't address the process of research, only the final product. 

The assignment acknowledges and perhaps even describes the research process but includes no components that require students show their engagement with the process.

The assignment is graded without particular consideration given to the quality of research.

Assignment includes at least one component that require students to make the process of research explicit and is evaluated by the professor. 

Examples include:

* Annotated bibliographies
* Paper proposals
* Literature reviews
* Research journals
* Online group discussion forums
* Wikis that show process 

Process components require students to apply information literacy skills like those delineated in the ILCCs and are:

* a portion of the assignment's final grade
* evaluated in advance of the final product to allow student to act on feedback and guidance from the professor

Library Engagement

Guidance Level (0)

Guidance Level (1)

Guidance Level (2)

Guidance Level (3)

No engagement with the library resources or liaison librarian.

Students are given general instructions on library tools (e.g., databases, call number ranges, etc.) and resources, possibly including the name of the appropriate librarian.

Discipline-specific resources are identified (e.g., library guides, disciplinary databases.)

The most relevant library tools are identified and demonstrated to students in class.


The liaison librarian is consulted for suggestions and possible collaboration.

If the liaison librarian is consulted or is teaching a session, s/he is made familiar with the assignment and is able to make recommendations accordingly.

Research Guidance Rubric by Pete Coco and Hazel McClure is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Page last modified December 14, 2022