Developing Student Researchers - The Faculty Role (4 unit workshop)

A series of workshops for faculty on integration of information literacy into their instruction and assignments.

We need to design backward


Starting with the goal in mind and then working back to the ways in which you will meet the goal is key to developing a research processes curriculum.

Establishing Goals for Student Research

Imagine an A+ Student Research Project

What are its elements? You might think of:

  • A clear and problem-based stated goal
  • Enlistment of high quality, scholarly resources
  • Found resources are focused on the research goal
  • Resources are interpreted well
  • The project reveals and addresses all relevant points of view
  • The project is logically constructed around a clear outline
  • The arguments are addressed with critical thinking and grace
  • Format is correct
  • Plagiarism is avoided

Determine what is important to you and your teaching goals

Here are some key principles:

  • Teaching research processes to your students should not have to disrupt your teaching goals or prevent you from covering content.
  • You are the professor and thus the determiner of what your students should be learning
  • Teaching research processes means teaching to your goals for the kinds of research projects you want to see
  • It is vitally important that you identify, in detail, what a good research project in your course should contain
  • You will need to connect your goals to student research assignments to remove ambiguity and to use those assignments as tools to develop student abilities.

Here's are possible sample presentations for initial design of a student project:

Developing a Plan for Iterative Research Instruction

Create a Faceting Plan

The main problem with single submission research projects is that there is little opportunity for development of student research ability. A step-by-step (faceted) plan in which the major assignment is broken down into about 5 pieces, each submitted separately, provides a means for instructing students through comments on each assignment, so that students improve on each assignment as they review the one before. It also gives opportunity for students to redo parts or all of an assignment if its goals were not met.

Faceted assignments are based on formative assessment, by which students receive feedback at every stage, along with an opportunity to improve their work over the span of several assignments. The less useful alternative is summative assessment by which a student turns in one project and has a grade assessed, perhaps with a few comments that the student may or may not read.

Goals and Assignments

A faceting plan pairs goals with assignments. For example, one of your goals may be that the research project has a strong and clear research statement that defines the project's purpose. A related assignment might be to have the student demonstrate a basic (encyclopedia entry level) understanding of the topic, brainstorm several problem statements (research questions or theses) and then choose the best of them. Students submit the assignment, receive professorial feedback and then either use the feedback in relation to the next assignment or redo the current assignment to get it up to the required level.

Discussion Questions

1. What elements would you look for in an ideal student research project?

2. Have you tried faceting (scaffolding) student research projects? Have you ever seen this as an way to teach research method?

3. Do you think students read your comments on research projects? Do those comments help them improve?

4. If you saw yourself as a student research skill mentor, how would that alter your course goals?

5. Is developing student researchers important enough that you would make it a significant goal of your courses?

Exercises and Readings


1. Read:

  • Teaching Research Processes: Chapter Six
  • Research Strategies: Chapter Three

2. Compile your own list of goals for good research projects. The points in it should be specific and actionable. Thus, instead of "displays critical thinking" (hard to measure), make it, "is guided by a clear problem statement" (a statement whose quality can be measured). Think of at least 5 or 6 goals, but no more than ten. 

3. Begin thinking about what sorts of assignments (faceted and formative) you would develop to teach to your goals for good research projects.


Badke, William. A Model for Research Assignment Creation in the Context of Inquiry-based Learning. Unpublished paper.

Farrell, Robert and Badke, William. "Situating Information Literacy in the Disciplines: A Practical and Systematic Approach for Librarians." Reference Services Review 43, no.2 (2015): 319-340. [Draft of final submitted manuscript available:]

Wiggins, Grant, and Jay McTighe. "What is Backward Design?" In Understanding by Design, 7-19. Alexandria, VA: ASCD,1998.