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Killing the Research Paper: Building Successful Alternative Assignments: Home

Prepared for the 1/14/2015 LibCAT Roundtable.

Alternative Assignment Ideas

Wordle with project ideas

Created using Wordle - © 2013 Jonathan Feinberg

WHY Consider and Alternative Assignment?

"Alternatives can . . .

  • lighten the grading load
  • be used to develop abilities on the way to writing complex papers
  • provide ways of using other strengths our students might have
  • accustom students to different voices and modes of communication
  • allow students to create work for a larger audience, and go beyond work that is only seen by the student and the professor
  • create opportunities for making a contribution beyond the class" (1)

HOW to Create an Alternative Assignment

Be clear and honest - what are you trying to accomplish?

  • Focus on student learning or course outcomes. Make sure you have a few clearly written, attainable outcomes. 
  • Standard research paper outcomes include research, writing, understanding of content, citing. Think outside the box and see if there are any other outcomes that will teach students practical and necessary skills such as visual literacy, web publishing, video skills, etc.

Decide what kind of assignment would work best. There are lots of options!

  • Talk to others and look around online to get ideas and advice.
    • Definitely bounce ideas off your librarian and other campus resources like CAT! And keep in mind that Information Commons is available to help you teach technology tools (like iMovie, Wordpress, etc) or can serve as the place where you direct questions to throughout the semester.
    • Take a look at resources under the Examples tab on this LibGuide.
  •  Think through the details - format, time commitment, process, support resources, individual/group effort, methods of assessment, etc.
  • Be aware that some assignments may change your original learning outcomes. You'll want to revisit and realign, add, or adjust so that the assignment meets needs and isn't stretching itself too far.

Set clear expectations and communicate them with your students early and often.

  • If possible, share rubrics with your students at the beginning of the process. Examples are also very helpful if available.
  • Be flexible - you may have to adjust due dates or the intended process. Give your students a clear path to communicate problems or successes.

Gather students feedback about the process. This is really helpful to continually improve the assignment moving forward.

From Butler University:

Have an example that you'd like to share? Email it to

From beyond Butler:

Does the assignment accomplish the student learning outcomes?

Teresa Williams

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Teresa Williams
Irwin Library, Room 126

ph: 317-940-8467
Teresa Williams Instruction Feedback
Subjects: Business

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