Crowd Research Activity

This activity exposes first-time graduate researchers to all stages of the research process through sourcing leads from fellow classmates.

Goal: To create a collective research environment –otherwise known as "crowd researching".


This activity, which spans an entire semester, is an entry-level experience for first-time graduate researchers. It demonstrates each stage of the research process to the entire class and allows students to test their thought process on a weekly basis. It also creates a research-oriented and friendly environment as classmates become excited and willing to help each other with their projects. Every week, students voluntarily bring in articles, sources and suggestions for their classmates.


  1. Before class.
    1. The activity is explained to the students ahead of class the week before. The instructions are on the syllabus and then further explained on the Canvas website.
  2. In class.
    1. Each student presents a small segment of their research which differs depending on the learning goal of the week. In essence, this forms a research project by committee.
    2. The class material focuses on a particular research skill each week. For example, how to formulate a research question. The reading for the first week is a book with a very clear research question used to demonstrate the instructor’s rule of "the Golden Question" - a one sentence question that sums up the student’s research agenda. Each student is responsible for formulating their own Golden Question related to their ongoing research projects.
    3. While one student presents their week's research assignment, the other student asks questions and brings up suggestions. For example, one student presented their sociological project looking at Latin American immigrants to Boston. One of the lawyers in the room suggested using immigration case law as a primary resource into understanding the difficulties faced by this particular community. The suggestion and ensuing conversation opened up a new focus to this student's research project.
    4. After showcasing their individual research assignments for the weeks, students submit the revised assignment to the instructor, marking a significant segment of their larger research project. For example, students are assigned one week to choose a short primary source related to their research topic and demonstrate how they interpret the source. Classmates offer differing interpretations as a demonstration of how no two researchers will interpret a single source in exactly the same manner.
    5. When students added up the assignment each week, they produced their final research thesis. Each week's assignment featured important steps along the research path including finding primary and secondary sources, formulating arguments, and structuring evidenc


- The instructor notes that students in the class were pursuing an MA degree and most were writing major research projects for the first time, therefore breaking up individual research projects into weekly assignments made the large research projects more manageable.

- The instructor advises that assignments should be short enough to give the stage to students for half the class and the other half of the class to be used by discussing the course material.

Assessment: Students present their research in its entirety in a 15-minute presentation, leaving time at the end for additional feedback from classmates who by that point have become very familiar with their classmates' projects.

Submitted by Asher Orkaby, Harvard Extension School 

proseminar_book_review.docx12 KB
the_history_of_chemical_warfare.docx23 KB