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Designing Better Research Assignments

Everything But the Paper

Students do much of the work of writing a paper, without writing the actual paper.

  1. Students write a topic proposal.
    • Teach students how to use background sources such as encyclopedias, news stories, etc. and view research as part of the process of discovering a topic.
  2. Students conduct research and prepare an annotated bibliography of sources that will help them explore the topic. 
    • Teach students how to access and read different types of sources to deepen their understanding of a topic.
    • Utilize the CRAAP test or BEAM method to promote discussion and conversation around sources.  Avoid using either of these tools as a checklist.  Instead, they should be used to frame discussions.
  3. Students prepare an outline.
  4. Students write an introduction, conclusion.

Sources (EZ Proxy links require Montclair login)

University of Connecticut Library. Alternatives to Research Papers. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Bizup, J. (2008). BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing. Rhetoric Review 27(1), 72-86.

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