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Alternative Research Assignment

Creative alternatives help students become familiar
with scholarly research tools and techniques.

An All but the Paper research paper focuses on the process of research and the elements of a paper. Students submit topic analysis, thesis sentence, annotated bibliography, outline of paper, opening paragraph and summary.

While doing topic research, students keep a record of their actions: methodology, resources consulted (books, databases, Web searches), keywords or subject headings searched, noting both successes and failures. A Research Log provides a good introduction to how information and scholarly communication are organized.

Research a topic and present it as a poster which other students will use to learn about the topic. A poster session requires use of scholarly resources, research skills, concise communication, and synthesis of ideas.

Examine the treatment of a controversial issue in several different sources. For example, a newspaper article or editorial, peer-reviewed journal article, book, or professional association website.

Create an annotated bibliography (descriptive or evaluative) of a specified number of sources.

Working in small groups or pairs, prepare a print or web-based guide or brochure to introduce others to the various information sources in a discipline or on a specific topic.

Compare Internet search engine and periodical database searches using identical search statements. Discuss the initial search results and compare the findings. Revise the search statements and appropriately search each source again. Compare the final results.

Using book reviews, biographical information, and citation indexes, explore how and why a work becomes a "classic". What effect can a classical work have on a discipline?

Explore a scholar, historical figure, or other significant person's career and ideas by locating biographical information, preparing a bibliography of their works, and analyzing the reactions of peers to their works.

Compare primary and secondary sources on the same topic. When and how are either used in a given discipline?

Working in small groups or pairs, examine a small number of items such as books, articles, or websites. Establish indicators of quality, where these indicators are found, and the appropriate use for each item. Report findings to the class.

Write "program notes" for a concert, art or museum exhibit. Research the artist and/or object or composition using library and internet resources.

Find and evaluate a website against specified criteria. Cite the website in a specific citation format and write a brief evaluation (2-3 paragraphs). Note reasons why these pages are, or are not, appropriate for university level student research or for in-class use. Attach a printout of the first page of the website.

Select a Wikipedia article on a specified topic and critique it. Compare the information presented in the Wikipedia article to more traditional sources of information on this topic, such as a print encyclopedia or textbook.

Have the class collaborate on its own Wikipedia article, weblog, or podcast and research information to develop the content.

Compare literature on a topic from different time periods. How has the treatment of the topic evolved over time?

Choose a local issue or problem and research how other communities have dealt with it. Write a "letter to the editor" supporting your positions with facts and cited sources.

Adapted from:
IUPUI University Library
University of Connecticut Libraries