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Library Assignments / Research Paper Alternatives

The following suggestions for library assignments focus on information literacy objectives and learning outcomes and represent alternatives to the traditional research paper. If you would like to discuss any of these suggestions or ways to customize them to your class(es) please contact Alison Jones at 471-3340.

The suggestions below were compiled from the following web sites:

Conduct the research for a research paper - do everything except write it.

Find articles on a particular topic and write an abstract for each article. Cite the articles using a designated bibliographic style.

Compile an annotated bibliography.

Conduct a case study that would include research.

Give a presentation on a topic. This could be informational, persuasive, present pros and cons, etc. It would need to be research based and include appropriate citations.

Find an article from a general encyclopedia and a subject encyclopedia; a popular magazine, a scholarly journal, and a chapter in a book; and a government web site, a commercial web site, and an organizational web site. Compare the information given noting the similarities and differences in the formats, depth, accuracy, reliability of the information presented, and audience.

Consider how popular culture has influenced a particular topic.

Assign topics. Have students search several databases for information on the topic. Have them write up where they searched, their search strategies, their search results from each strategy attempted, and the bibliographic citations of x number of articles identified through their research.

Have students identify and study primary source material from an event or a person's original writing, work of art, musical composition, etc. Then have the students find corresponding secondary sources and write on what they discovered. They should also cite all sources examined.

Provide different types of web sites for students to examine and evaluate using accepted evaluation criteria. Have them cite each one.

Have students create an outline for a research paper, compile and produce an annotated bibliography on the topic, read the materials found and indicate where each item could "plug in" to the outline.

Have students write a literature review on a topic.

Have students do a biographical study of a significant person in the discipline, noting major influences on that person's work, their main achievements, and how their work contributed to the discipline; a bibliography of their writings; and how others in the discipline responded/reacted to their work.

Have students work together in groups to research a topic. Each person in the group would be responsible for finding and reading a particular type of literature and incorporating it into the larger group project. For example one person would look at newspaper articles, another popular magazines, another scholarly journals, another monographs and reference sources, another web sites, etc. Each would then cite the material they used.

Have students research a highly inflamatory topic noting the various issues that make it such a hot topic. Compare baised or inflamatory information with more balanced articles, books, and/or web sites on the topic. Produce a research log.

Have students research a topic and identify such things as significant events, significant people, laws and legislation, etc. (Who, what, when, where, why)

Examine x number of journals in a discipline noting intended audience, content, style, submission guidelines, and the major focus of the journal.

Have students develop a research journal noting the resources used in the development of their topic, databases used and why, key words, subject headings, and search strategies used and their relative success, a bibliography of useful materials found and the process used in evaluating the content of those materials.

Have students write a book review of a book. After they have completed their book review, have them locate reviews of the book and compare them to the one they wrote.

Write a newspaper story covering an event or discovery in the discipline.

Follow a piece of legislation through Congress that is related to the discipline. Note with supporting research why it is an issue, the main considerations of the issue, the various viewpoints on the issue, and a chronology of the issue.

Develop an annotated webliography on a topic that includes such things as meta sites and gateways, databases, e-journals, discussion lists, blogs, organizations, agencies, government sites, etc.

Have students develop a research guide/bibliopgraphy for finding information on a topic in the discipline including a wide range of types of resources such as bibliographies, general resources, handbooks, organizations, Library of Congress Subject Headings to use in the online catalog, thesaurus terms to use in databases if applicable, web sites, etc.

Have students read several articles on a topic then write questions (essay, short answer, multiple choice, etc.) on the articles. They should also provide the correct answers to the questions noting the article where the answer was found. Have the students also give their reasons for the questions asked and the bibliographic citation for the articles.

The following links provide more in-depth information on specific alternatives to full-blown research papers:

The Research Log:

Literature Review

Case Studies

Annotated Bibliography

Writing Abstracts

Tips for designing effective library assignments (and avoiding common pitfalls such as requiring resources not available, asking students to locate random facts, giving an entire class the exact same assignment, etc.)