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Effective Research Assignments

Alternative Research Assignments

These resources give examples of research assignments that take many forms.

Please let us know if you have additional assignments to share!

Collaboration & Discussion through Blogs & Wikis

Blogs: Though a class blog, students might reflect on and dialogue about specific aspects of their research process.

Potential blog topics might include:

  • describing one's chosen research topic, why it interests her/him, and why others should care about it,
  • identifying a source that has expanded or challenged thinking about the research topic, or
  • describing how one's research question has evolved over the course of their research.


Wikis: Students doing collaborative research might develop and revise their ideas through a wiki (like those available through CourseDen or platforms like Wikispaces).

Wiki pages can be organized based on different areas of the student's research topic, or on different aspects of the research process. Potential sections within a wiki could include: 

  • emerging research questions,
  • background information (such as differing perspectives on the research question),
  • the working thesis, and
  • key sources and how they inform the research.

Topic Exploration with Online Forums

Online platforms like Twitter, blogs, and other online networks can be good springboards for exploring how a topic has been discussed in a certain discipline or community.

Possible activities include:

  • Students examine how different communities (including academic and non-academic ones) converse, share, or create information through social media and other online forums (e.g. blogs, online networks).

  • Students use platforms like Twitter to gain perspective on how a given community or discipline discusses a certain topic or issue. Students compare how the "conversation" is represented differently in other mediums with which that community engaages (e.g. publications, blogs, conferences).
  • Students compare how discussions in specific online communities compare to those that occur through other modes of communication (e.g. in-person discussions, conferences, academic journals, the popular press, magazines). Students might then reflect on how these various communication channels may inform their own approaches to researching a specific issue.