Potential Student Research Assignments

There are many ways for students to learn from the findings of their academic research.  What follows is a sampling of possibilities, and librarians are always happy to work with you to create new assignments.   

Abstract or Executive Summary of a scholarly article.

Students are asked to read a scholarly article and write an abstract or executive summary of it, including the author’s thesis, argument, evidence, and conclusions.   

Anatomy of a Research Paper

Students conduct the research but do not actually write the paper (for your class): --clearly define topic --annotated bibliography of useful sources --outline of paper --thesis statement --opening paragraph and summary --present research findings to the class  

Annotated Bibliography

--A selected list with annotations describing and evaluating as well as explaining the relevance of these sources. --Students in a Shakespeare course read nine plays.  For their final written assignment, the students first had to identify a critical problem in one of the plays and to find twenty articles, books, or essays that discussed this problem.  From these twenty sources, students selected and annotated the best six sources covering the full range of the problem.  

Biographical Sketch

Students present a brief sketch of the author of a significant work of literature or history.  Students could use key reference sources and not online databases or the WWW.  

Briefing Paper

Students select a current problem and prepare a summary of the main issues involved and the proposed solutions, including the strengths and weaknesses of each solution.  Students may argue for the solution they think is best.   

Campaign Speech

Similar to the Briefing Paper, but students take a position and write a campaign speech to persuade voters to support that position.  

Compare Reference Sources

To facilitate interdisciplinary understanding, students research one topic in specialized reference sources covering a number of academic perspectives: Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 as discussed in the fields of economics, education, history, law and sociology, for example.   

Contemporary Conditions

Students write a brief two-three page statement on the social, ethical and political conditions contemporary to the major literary or historical work under study.  This assignment provides context for subsequent reading and study and integrates a limited number of both general and specialized reference tools.  

Contemporary Reception

Students collect and summarize book reviews of an important work.  This assignment requires students to use a specific research tool (book review indexes) for the time the original work was published.  

Credibility of a Course Reading

Students write an evaluative essay drawing on book reviews, biographical information, discussion and their own analysis.  

Cultural Context

Students in an international politics class first research another country and then watch the political news of the world through the eyes of someone in that country.  Class projects are can be prepared as diaries, letters, editorials, speeches, posters, interviews or any other creative method.   

Encyclopedia/Wikipedia Article

Students write or update an encyclopedia article, including a list of references OR students select a stub (placeholder for a topic) from Wikipedia and write an entry based on Wikipedia’s guidelines.  

Newspaper Article/ Letter to the Editor

Research a contemporary or historical event and then write an “objective” story OR students may choose to write a letter to the editor reacting to an event.  

The Practical Assignment

In a course on animal behavior for biology and psychology majors, students were asked to design an experiment in the field of animal behavior nutrition that proposed a research question so meaningful that a government agency or research institute might provide funding.  Students identified an appropriate funding agency, figured out the costs involved, and submitted a proposal describing the project with a supporting annotated bibliography.  Groups of students acted as reviewers for the proposals.  

Top Ten List

Develop a list of the most important, under-recognized or over-rated people, events or creations within a particular field of study and justify your selections.   

Understand Primary Sources

Students compare primary and secondary sources on the same topic, list and annotate both types of materials.    

Additional Assignments

Compare print and Web resources Create a handbook or research manual
Create a poster, display or exhibit Create a slide show, presentation or demonstration
Follow research trends Maintain a research log
Update a review article Write a book or film review
Write field notes Write a literature review