Integrate information literacy objectives with course objectives
Start with your course goals in mind. How does the research assignment/project fit within those goals? What type of assignment will best demonstrate a student's attainment of those goals? What research skills will students need in order to complete the assignment successfully? How will you help them develop those skills?
Consult with a librarian
Your librarian may have some helpful ideas or spot potential problems with an assignment. S/he can determine whether the library has access to materials needed to support the assignment, and s/he can help keep you informed about changes to collections, databases, etc.
Match the assignment to your students' research skills
Don’t assume that students have had prior experience with libraries or library research. Consider breaking large research assignments into a series of smaller assignments to help students learn about the research process. Create checkpoints to determine students' understanding. Your librarian can help you address gaps in students' research skills, either via library instruction sessions and/or research appointments.
Traditional research papers are fine, but there are other types of assignments that will help students learn and practice information skills, such as presentations, multimedia projects, annotated bibliographies, etc. When appropriate, encourage students to use a variety of sources (e.g. articles from popular sources and peer-reviewed journals, primary and secondary sources, etc.). This requires students to engage with sources and to think about when and why information is useful in different contexts.
Provide clear guidelines
A clearly written assignment will go a long way towards helping students feel confident in the research process. Watch out for restrictions such as “You may not use the Internet.” Many quality resources (such as subscription databases and ebooks) purchased by libraries are delivered via the Internet. Many traditionally print sources are now delivered digitally. It’s better to guide students to the types of sources you want – and explain why – rather than tell them where they may or may not look for them.
Consulting with a librarian can help you to create an assignment that works for you and for your students!