Alternative to the Traditional Research Paper

Research comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes a break from the usual can make class more exciting – for both student and teacher. The librarians urge you to consider using library resources for something different. Any project which requires students to find and evaluate information helps them hone critical thinking and information literacy skills. Try one of the projects listed below. Contact a librarian if you want help structuring your new project.  
  • Use the library and online resources to create a topical flyer or brochure.

  • Create a presentation using Photo Story 3 (free Microsoft download) that allows for voice and music.

  • Conduct a SWOT analyses (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) comparing two companies.

  • Prepare a CD describing a person, place, historical period, or event. Include music, cultural history, quotations, and a timeline.

  • Create a thesaurus of terms for a broad topic. Create a picture or chart to depict the subject.

  • Find two peer-reviewed articles on the same topic. Compare the bibliographies. What do they have in common? Crossover?  Which is better? Why?

  • Compare an article in a scholarly journal with an article on the same topic in a popular magazine. Make a table or chart identifying your comparison points.

  • Use research to write a policy for your field. Describe the steps you used for research.

  • Create an assignment guide for your topic similar to the library guides. Include a short introductory paragraph; add three useful books, two databases, and at least three Internet sites appropriate for a college paper. Annotate each resource.

  • Select $1000 worth of books to purchase on your topic. Each book should be appropriate for a college library.

  • The instructor has given you five articles on a single topic. Locate each article in the library’s databases and describe your search strategies. List the resources you used.

  • Prepare a list of handouts for a topic or chapter. Include resources.

  • Write an "ignorance paper." Given a disease or contemporary issue, find out and report on what is not known about this topic.  Prove your points through your research.

  • Identify three experts on a contemporary issue. Make a chart comparing viewpoints and qualifications.

  • Create a visual thesaurus for a topic and one or two subtopics within it. Use Venn diagrams or mind maps. Write a thesis sentence for your refined topic.

  • Compare information found in two journals on the same subject. Include a short paragraph describing the topic. Think about point of view where applicable, bibliography used, conservative and liberal comparison, timeliness of information, and other points.

  • Have students consult a variety of biographical resources, scholarly articles, and subject encyclopedias to identify significant people in your discipline. Make a short descriptive list.

  • Create a timeline that describes a person, event, or invention.

  • Create a pop culture webpage or paper covering a certain time period. Introduce a historical or literary period. Include people, music, art, literature, inventions.

  • Compare readings selected from both a primary and secondary source.

  • Compare information in three databases on a given topic. 

  • Examine the journals in your discipline. Annotate five articles found in different subject related journals. Discuss the scope of the discipline.

  • Research a topic and present it using visuals in a slideshow or webpage.

  • Create a chart to compare/contrast presidential candidates and their platforms.

  • Compare how a topic is treated in several various print and electronic reference sources. Note any apparent standards in layout of the various sources, including textbook chapters, research articles, newspaper articles, news releases, factsheets, handbooks, and/or government reports.

  • Analyze a subject using opinion polls and compare findings.

  • Analyze the content, tone, style and audience of two journals and/or websites central to your discipline. Examine the instructions for authors for each journal. Instructions for authors are frequently available on the Web and in journals.

  • Read the articles cited in a research paper. Explain how each is related to the paper. When is it appropriate to cite other papers? What different purposes do the citations serve?

  • Examine an event closely. Find newspaper articles written at the time of the event. Find out more about the people who were involved and why. 

  • Review a book or film. Discuss the author's credentials. Contrast the book or film to similar works in the field. Compare the film to its source book or play. 

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