Embracing Change: Alternatives to Traditional Research Writing Assignments

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  • About the authors

The pedagogical value and real-life applicability of traditional research writing assignments has been investigated since at least the 1990s, and the increase in adoption of alternative assignments could be an indication that students are questioning their long-term benefits. Traditional research writing assignments do not always align with the goals and outcomes that students set for their education.

Embracing Change: Alternatives to Traditional Research Writing Assignments collects existing alternative assignments from librarians and classroom instructors and examines their benefits and drawbacks, impact on various student populations, and the support needed to make them successful. In two parts—Analog-Driven Assignments and Technology-Driven Assignments—authors offer a wealth of insight into the theory and practice of utilizing alternative assignments. Case studies detail the development of assignments, their implementation, lessons learned, and assessment, and provide examples and reference materials for incorporating or refining your own alternative assignments. Projects covered include:

  • how students engage with writing gray literature
  • producing a local voting guide
  • creating museum-level exhibit labels
  • composing and printing original poems using a letterpress
  • developing finding aids
  • writing a children’s book
  • creating infographics and lightning talk videos
  • learning digital literacy using podcasts
  • a variety of digital humanities projects 

Embracing Change is a testament to the power of interdisciplinary collaboration, highlights the value of alternative assignments, and provides librarians and educators with practical guidance for creating, implementing, and supporting alternatives to research writing assignments.

Silke Higgins and Ngoc-Yen Tran

PART I: Analog-Driven Assignments
Chapter 1. Research Unbound
A Semester-long Course and a Tool Kit of Activities Promoting Creative Expressions of Scholarship
Annie Armstrong
Chapter 2. Thresholds Concepts and Rhetorical Contexts
Looking for Transfer and Letting Go of the Research Paper
Nicole Bungert, Kate L. Ganski, Shevaun E. Watson, and Kristin Woodward
Chapter 3. Student-Generated Local Candidate Voter Guides
Teaching Information Literacy through Partnering Librarians and Faculty
Angeline Prichard, Sarah M. Surak, and Adam Hoffman
Chapter 4. Creating Museum Exhibits
Faculty-Librarian Collaboration within a First-Year Research Course
Ginny Boehme, Steve Sullivan, and Kevin Messner
Chapter 5. The Poetic Table of the Elements
A Case Study in Radical Science Writing through Object-Based and Haptic Learning
Susan Guinn-Chipman, Danny Long, Gregory Robl, and Julia Seko
Chapter 6. Soviet Counterculture, Poison Girls, and Glue Sticks
Teaching Information Literacy with Do-It-Yourself Zines
Shira Loev Eller and Tina Plottel
Chapter 7. Friendly Finding Aid
A Collaborative Way to Build Primary Source Research Foundations
Laura Godden, Teri L. Holford, Patricia Stovey, and Tiffany Trimmer
Chapter 8. Remembering Local Mexican American History through Storytime
Karna Younger and Betsaida M. Reyes
PART II: Technology-Driven Assignments
Chapter 9. Students as Wikipedia Teachers
Creating an Authentic Peer Learning Experience with a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon
Juliann Couture, Rebecca Kuglitsch, and Alexander Watkins
Chapter 10. Writing for Wikipedia
Applying Disciplinary Knowledge to the Biggest Encyclopedia
Robin Miller and Liliana LaValle
Chapter 11. Infographics
Pedagogical Innovation to Enhance University Students’ Academic and Information Literacy
Victoria F. Caplan and Amy Man Lai Chi
Chapter 12. What Fascinates You?
Infographics as Research-Based Inquiry for Artists
Tammi M. Owens and Camille Hawbaker Voorhees
Chapter 13. Wading into the Data Deluge
Introducing Data Literacy under the Umbrella of Information Literacy to First-Year Undergraduate Students
Kaila Bussert, Mercedes Rutherford-Patten, and Russell White
Chapter 14. Reinforcing Asynchronous Learning through Student Lightning Talk Videos
Sarah H. Jeong
Chapter 15. Now This Is Podcasting
Supporting the Use of Podcasts as a Paper Alternative in the Library
Victoria Longfield
Chapter 16. Digital Partnerships
Nontraditional Learning Opportunities at the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship
Amanda Koziura and R. Benjamin Gorham
Chapter 17. Placing History
Using Digital Maps to Situate Historical Research and Foreground Student Authorship
Jason Ezell and Lucy Rosenbloom

Silke Higgins

Silke Higgins is an associate librarian for research and instruction at San José State University. She holds an MLIS from San José State University. Her primary field of library and information science research revolves around the role libraries play in furthering the academic success of nontraditional and international students, with focus on English as a foreign language (EFL). Research topics of interest within the field of librarianship include jargon use of dominant discourse communities and its effect on nontraditional student communities, as well as motivating nontraditional student populations with the use of culturally sensitive approaches. Her writing on library- and nonlibrary-related research has been published nationally and internationally; she is also the coeditor of Supporting Today’s Students in the Library: Strategies for Retaining and Graduating International, Transfer, First-Generation, and Re-entry Students (ACRL Publishing, 2019).

Ngoc-Yen Tran

Ngoc-Yen Tran is the coordinator for teaching and learning at Seattle University. She holds an MLIS from the University of Washington. The focus of her research is on high-impact educational practices, especially the high-impact practice of undergraduate research experiences. Her library and information science research revolves around scholarly communications topics and information literacy instruction. She has published her research and writing in multiple journals, including College and Research Libraries, The Reference Librarian, and Internet Reference Services Quarterly. She is also the coeditor of the book Supporting Today’s Students in the Library: Strategies for Retaining and Graduating International, Transfer, First-Generation, and Re-entry Students (ACRL Publishing, 2019).