Have students follow their own discovery-driven interests. Foster excitment about areas of the course material each student is particularly interested in. Develope skills to read primary literature or conduct field work/experiments. Develope communication skills.
Clearly explain the assignment
Distribute instructions to the students. Make sure to emphasize the goals of the assignment and the question they are trying to answer in their research. It is helpful to have a prompt that not only requires facts, but also synthesis of information into the student’s own view point.
Define the grading rubric
Clearly define the grading rubric. Key elements to consider include:
The type and number of sources required. Also indicate the reference format
Format of the assignment – is it a grand proposal? Field report? Argument? Response paper? News and views article? Etc.
Length and writing style – how long should the piece be? Are there discipline specific writing components to consider?
Transparency is key. Be upfront and honest with your students about your expectations.
Prepare resources to guide student work
Make sure students understand what a ‘good’ source is before starting their work. It is often helpful, especially for introductory courses, to have a session on how to find a ‘good’ source
How will your students find their resources? Have a list of sources that students can look through if they are struggling to find what they are looking for or have special office hours to assist student work. Libraries often have similar services to help students.
Define a plagiarism policy
Have students sign a Code of Conduct or Anti-Plagiarism policy. It is important to address this issue before students begin.
Have check-points with students to ensure they are progressing
Research projects often take several weeks to complete. Establish a scaffold or schedule to help your students progress at a reasonable pace and prevent last minute assignments.
This schedule can have various check-points in which students have to hand in partially complete assignments for feedback. Some example checkpoints include:
Thesis statement/topic proposal – have students prepare their thesis statement and topic for approval or peer feedback
Annotated bibliography – have students bring in a list of resources they will use for the assignment. Each resource should also have a sentence or two about the key piece of information in the resource and why the student is using it
Outline – have students bring in an outline of their paper complete with topic sentences for each paragraph and list of accompanying resources
Rough draft – have students bring in a complete rough draft. This is a good point to have peer feedback if assignments are not too long.
Emphasize and allow time for revision.
Writing is a process in which revision is a key and often overlooked step. Either have students submit a draft to you to comment on, or set-up a peer-review feedback system.
Have students hand in research report, give final presentation, or both
Students should hand in their final research assignment for grading. Often, students also have a final presentation in which they present their findings to the class. It is useful to have both so students can practice both their written and oral communication skills.