Library-Based Assignments for Students at All Levels of Study

The library-based assignment is a staple in many university courses by which students learn and practice information literacy in their discipline. In this time of burgeoning generative artificial intelligence (AI) and large language models (LLMs), critical information literacy and critical digital literacy are topmost in many educators’ minds as foundational for success in university and beyond.

The following list of library-based assignments has been categorized into those that are more likely to be appropriate for first- and second-year students, and those that are more likely to be appropriate for upper-year students. For more ideas for creating assignments at the appropriate level of study, see the CTE Teaching Tip: Bloom’s Taxonomy Learning Activities and Assessments.

Many of these library-based assignments can be adapted to both physical and digital library spaces to bolster students’ information and digital literacy.

First- and second-year students

  • Locate a popular magazine article, then find a scholarly article on the same subject and compare the arguments presented in the two papers.
  • Locate primary sources published on the date of their birth, select six different sources, and write an annotation of each source, including the complete bibliographic citation.
  • Read an editorial and find the facts to support it.
  • Research an event in different sources and write a newspaper article about it; have other students research the same event and compare the stories that result.
  • Assemble background information on an organization in preparation for a hypothetical job interview.
  • Search a topic both on the web and using books and journal articles, then compare the information available through each resource.
  • Select a topic and compare how that topic is treated in 2-5 different sources.
  • Prepare an evaluative annotated bibliography of books, journal articles, and other sources.

Upper-level students

  • Update an existing bibliography or literature review.
  • Write a grant proposal to a specific funding agency; include supporting literature review, budget, etc., and present final product to peer groups for review.
  • Evaluate the impact of a particular researcher’s work on a topic.
  • Pick a topic and research it in the literature at date-specific points, then compare the literature at these different points.
  • Create a conference poster on a research topic for a set audience and present it.


If you would like support applying these tips to your own teaching, CTE staff members are here to help.  View the CTE Support page to find the most relevant staff member to contact. 

For more ideas or discipline-specific suggestions for library-based assignments, consult with your UWaterloo subject-area librarian.


Tewell, E. (2015). A Decade of Critical Information Literacy: A Review of the Literature. Communications in Information Literacy, 9 (1), 24-43. 


CTE Teaching Tips

Additional Resources

teaching tips

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