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Online Guide to Writing and Research

The research process, explore more of umgc.

  • Online Guide to Writing

The Research Assignment Introduction

When tasked with writing a research paper, you are able to “dig in” to a topic, idea, theme, or question in greater detail.  In your academic career, you will be assigned several assignments that require you to “research” something and then write about it. Sometimes you can choose a topic and sometimes a topic is assigned to you.  

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Either way, look at this assignment as an opportunity to learn more about something and to add your voice to the discourse community about said topic. Your professor is assigning you the task to give you a chance to learn more about something and then share that newfound knowledge with the professor and your academic peers.  In this way, you contribute meaningfully to the existing scholarship in that subject area. You are then creating a research space for yourself and for other researchers who may follow you.  

Mailing Address: 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783 This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License . © 2022 UMGC. All links to external sites were verified at the time of publication. UMGC is not responsible for the validity or integrity of information located at external sites.

Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing

Chapter 1: College Writing

How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?

What Is College Writing?

Why So Much Emphasis on Writing?

Chapter 2: The Writing Process

Doing Exploratory Research

Getting from Notes to Your Draft

Introduction

Prewriting - Techniques to Get Started - Mining Your Intuition

Prewriting: Targeting Your Audience

Prewriting: Techniques to Get Started

Prewriting: Understanding Your Assignment

Rewriting: Being Your Own Critic

Rewriting: Creating a Revision Strategy

Rewriting: Getting Feedback

Rewriting: The Final Draft

Techniques to Get Started - Outlining

Techniques to Get Started - Using Systematic Techniques

Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Freewriting

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Summarizing Your Ideas

Writing: Outlining What You Will Write

Chapter 3: Thinking Strategies

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone: Style Through Vocabulary and Diction

Critical Strategies and Writing

Critical Strategies and Writing: Analysis

Critical Strategies and Writing: Evaluation

Critical Strategies and Writing: Persuasion

Critical Strategies and Writing: Synthesis

Developing a Paper Using Strategies

Kinds of Assignments You Will Write

Patterns for Presenting Information

Patterns for Presenting Information: Critiques

Patterns for Presenting Information: Discussing Raw Data

Patterns for Presenting Information: General-to-Specific Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Specific-to-General Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Summaries and Abstracts

Supporting with Research and Examples

Writing Essay Examinations

Writing Essay Examinations: Make Your Answer Relevant and Complete

Writing Essay Examinations: Organize Thinking Before Writing

Writing Essay Examinations: Read and Understand the Question

Chapter 4: The Research Process

Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Ask a Research Question

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Cite Sources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Collect Evidence

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Decide Your Point of View, or Role, for Your Research

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Draw Conclusions

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Find a Topic and Get an Overview

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Manage Your Resources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Outline

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Survey the Literature

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Work Your Sources into Your Research Writing

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Human Resources

Research Resources: What Are Research Resources?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Electronic Resources

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Print Resources

Structuring the Research Paper: Formal Research Structure

Structuring the Research Paper: Informal Research Structure

The Nature of Research

The Research Assignment: How Should Research Sources Be Evaluated?

The Research Assignment: When Is Research Needed?

The Research Assignment: Why Perform Research?

Chapter 5: Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity

Giving Credit to Sources

Giving Credit to Sources: Copyright Laws

Giving Credit to Sources: Documentation

Giving Credit to Sources: Style Guides

Integrating Sources

Practicing Academic Integrity

Practicing Academic Integrity: Keeping Accurate Records

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Paraphrasing Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Quoting Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Summarizing Your Sources

Types of Documentation

Types of Documentation: Bibliographies and Source Lists

Types of Documentation: Citing World Wide Web Sources

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - APA Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - CSE/CBE Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - Chicago Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - MLA Style

Types of Documentation: Note Citations

Chapter 6: Using Library Resources

Finding Library Resources

Chapter 7: Assessing Your Writing

How Is Writing Graded?

How Is Writing Graded?: A General Assessment Tool

The Draft Stage

The Draft Stage: The First Draft

The Draft Stage: The Revision Process and the Final Draft

The Draft Stage: Using Feedback

The Research Stage

Using Assessment to Improve Your Writing

Chapter 8: Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Article and Book Reviews

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Reaction Papers

Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Adapting the Argument Structure

Writing Arguments: Purposes of Argument

Writing Arguments: References to Consult for Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Anticipate Active Opposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Determine Your Organization

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Develop Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Introduce Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - State Your Thesis or Proposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Write Your Conclusion

Writing Arguments: Types of Argument

Appendix A: Books to Help Improve Your Writing

Dictionaries

General Style Manuals

Researching on the Internet

Special Style Manuals

Writing Handbooks

Appendix B: Collaborative Writing and Peer Reviewing

Collaborative Writing: Assignments to Accompany the Group Project

Collaborative Writing: Informal Progress Report

Collaborative Writing: Issues to Resolve

Collaborative Writing: Methodology

Collaborative Writing: Peer Evaluation

Collaborative Writing: Tasks of Collaborative Writing Group Members

Collaborative Writing: Writing Plan

General Introduction

Peer Reviewing

Appendix C: Developing an Improvement Plan

Working with Your Instructor’s Comments and Grades

Appendix D: Writing Plan and Project Schedule

Devising a Writing Project Plan and Schedule

Reviewing Your Plan with Others

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Research Assignment Design: Overview

  • Student Learning Outcomes
  • Evaluating Student Work
  • Generative AI

Prioritize your learning outcomes

Students can't do it all. Pick what to focus on. For the beginning researcher, research can be a complicated process with many steps to master effectively. Your assignment might want to prioritize some of those over others.

Students experience a greater cognitive load when researching because they lack domain knowledge. You can help students focus their energies by ensuring your assignment matches your priorities.

For example, to prioritize synthesizing arguments, design an assignment around reading and writing with sources, and limit the need for finding sources. To prioritize identifying the scope of research on a topic, require searching for sources.

How do I do this?

  • Determine and prioritize  learning goals specific to the research process . 
  • Imagine a student working through the assignment. Are there parts of it that demand a lot of work, but that don't match your priorities? If so, rethink the assignment.

Focus on the research and writing process

Prompts should address both the steps along the way (picking a topic, collecting data, synthesizing sources) and the completed assignment. When instructions focus only on the final product, students will view them as a checklist to complete.

For example, requiring a certain number of sources for a paper directs students' attention to the end product. Students will pick the first sources they find, rather than understanding the process of finding many possible sources, then selecting the best ones.

  • Give clear and concise directions, with explanations and examples, about why you want something a certain way.
  • Make learning objectives explicit, and provide feedback for each step of the research experience.
  • Provide opportunities for students to reflect on their learning.
  • Allow students time to explore and reframe as they research.
  • Discuss how students will know they've found enough information.

Scaffold learning

Break down and explicitly teach the different aptitudes students need to be successful. Research can overwhelm students, especially those new to the process or discipline.

  • Break your assignment down into smaller tasks to ensure that students reach learning objectives successively and successfully. 
  • Approach this as an opportunity to help students develop research skills. Don't assume students already know how to do research. Learning is iterative, so even if they've had a library research session, a review is useful.
  • Recognize the emotional toll of research and give students the time they need to experience the full spectrum of feelings, as part of the instructional design.
  • Provide worksheets, handouts, or activities that help students navigate specific aspects of the research process. 
  • Assist students over common stumbling blocks. What will get them past bottlenecks to learning in your discipline?

Create an authentic learning experience

Make your assignment relevant to real life experiences and skills. Students learn best and successfully transfer what they're learning when they connect with the assignment, feel the excitement of discovery, or solve challenges. Through disciplinary and experiential learning, students develop different perspectives from which to view the world.

  • Encourage curiosity. Give students the chance to experience some of the messiness of research, while limiting how far off track they can get through periodic check-ins.
  • Show students how to practice reading, research, and writing in your discipline. All these require interrelated, separate skills.
  • Address how students can transfer knowledge and skills.
  • Consider problem-based learning, have students examine real-world issues.

Need More Help?

Ways librarians can help.

  • Discuss your learning objectives and options for assignments with you
  • "Test-drive" your assignment to ensure students will be successful
  • Identify why students struggle and how to help them
  • Ensure appropriate resources are available
  • Identify library instructional resources to link in Canvas
  • Provide research instruction for your class
  • Research Assignment Stipend Support for your collaboration with a librarian on a new assignment.
  • How to Write an Effective Assignment Harvard University Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning

See Example Assignments

  • Introductory Research Paper Prompt
  • Executive Summary Assignment
  • Next: Student Learning Outcomes >>
  • Last Updated: Jan 9, 2024 9:01 AM
  • URL: https://guides.smu.edu/research_assignments

COM Library

Articles & Media

Books & eBooks

Your Research Assignment

Your assignment is where it all starts, pick your topic, can't think of a topic, tips for your assignments.

  • Next Previous Guide

Research Tutorial Links

1. Research Tutorial Your introduction to college level research.

2. College Level Research College level research, scholarly & peer reviewed articles and more.

3. Your Research Assignment Understanding your research assignment and picking a topic.

4. Find Your Sources Find college level books, eBooks, articles and media for your research assignments.

5. Evaluate Your Sources Evaluating your sources and spotting fake sites, fake news and media bias.

6. Cite Your Sources Citation, plagiarism, copyright and fair use.

Understanding your assignment is key. You should read your assignment as soon as you get it just so you have time to ask your instructor about anything that you’re not sure of.

Having the assignment with you when you search can help ensure that the sources that you find will work for the assignment. Circle, highlight or underline important requirements. If you are not sure what your instructor wants, ask!

What is your instructor asking you to do?

When reading your assignment focus on verbs like analyze , summarize or compare to understand what your instructor wants from you. Other important words to watch out for are how , why , when , etc. All of these words will help you focus on what you need for your research topic.

What are the rules of the assignment?

Many instructors have rules that they want you to follow in order to complete the assignment successfully. They frequently include things like:

  • How long your paper or presentation should be
  • That might include things like your textbook, class notes, books, articles, and Internet
  • It might also include how long your sources need to be, when they were written and who wrote them
  • MLA, APA, GSA, etc.
  • Informational, persuasive, reflective, annotated bibliographies, scientific, etc.
  • Word, RTF, PowerPoint, etc.
  • What kinds of topics you can use

Once you have and understand your assignment, choosing a topic is the next step in the research process. In some cases, you will be assigned a specific topic for your research paper. In other cases you will be able to complete your research on a topic of your choice.

If you are able to choose your own topic, try to choose a topic that is interesting to you. You will be spending quite a bit of time doing research and writing your paper--interest in the topic can make the process much easier and help you write a better paper.

  • Last Updated: Apr 17, 2023 3:46 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.com.edu/TutorialAssignment

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The University of Winnipeg

Understanding Research Assignments

Before you begin researching and writing, you should spend some time understanding your assignment and preparing your process and workflows. To make the most productive use of your time, you'll need to know what you're trying to accomplish and have a consistent process for gathering information, reading, and note-taking.

1) About Research Assignments

2) avoiding plagiarism, 3) organizing your readings, about research assignments.

Most of your courses will require you to complete a research assignment of one kind or another. In general, the goal of a research assignment is to get you to gather information about a certain topic, analyze that information, and report what you’ve learned as part of a class presentation or research paper/essay.

Types of Research Assignments

You can find useful information about the different types of research and writing assignments at the Online Writing Lab .

Important Things to Note About Your Assignment

Relationship to other assignments : Some professors will design their assignments to flow together. You may find that each assignment requires you to do a little bit more work towards writing a big final paper.

Choice of topic : You may be given a list of possible research topics, or you may be asked to choose a topic of interest to you. In either case, it’s a good idea to chat with your prof and do some preliminary research before deciding.

Number and Type of Sources : Often, professors will ask that you use a minimum number of sources in your paper. Information sources can be almost anything, but you may be required to use only, or mostly, academic/peer-reviewed sources.

Citation/Referencing Style : There are many different styles for referencing your sources. The most commonly used styles are APA, MLA, Chicago, and CSE. Make sure you know which you are expected to use, and take a moment to learn the basics of the style.

Length : You will usually be asked to write a paper of specified length. Be sure to start early and give yourself enough time to do the appropriate amount of research and writing.

Library Access

Completing your assignments will require access to the library’s collection. These are specialized resources you won’t find available freely on the Internet. You can access the library’s online collections (databases) through our website. If you are off-campus, you’ll be required to authenticate with your WebAdvisor username and password.

Back to Top

Avoiding Plagiarism

The following definition of plagiarism can be found in the University of Winnipeg Academic Misconduct Policy :

“Plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty in which students present published or unpublished work (written, digital, or other) of another person or persons, or one’s own prior work, in its entirety or in part, as their own original work.”

Every student is expected to produce work that follows the rules of academic integrity, so avoiding plagiarism is a fundamental skill in university. To be clear, you will generally be expected to use other people’s ideas to support the points in your paper, but the source of every idea that isn’t your own needs to be cited in a suitable format.

There are two ways that plagiarism can happen: intentionally and unintentionally. We’ll talk about each here.

Intentional Plagiarism

With the abundance of information available online, it’s incredibly easy to take credit for something you didn’t write, if that’s your intention. However, simply copying information from a website or blog and pasting it into your paper without crediting the source is considered plagiarism. Add this to the act of getting someone (or paying them) to write your paper for you, which is clearly unethical, and you have an idea of how intentional plagiarism happens.

As easy as it is, though, it’s also very easy to detect. If you plagiarize something, your professor only needs to do a couple of simple Google searches or use a plagiarism detection software to figure it out. Plus, your professors often craft their assignments to see how you develop as a researcher and writer during the course. If you are not producing original work, you won’t be effectively demonstrating your development and your grades may suffer, even if you don’t get caught.

Unintentional Plagiarism

Plagiarism can also happen by accident. This usually results from sloppy note-taking or by writing your paper in a rush. Even if you accidentally use another person’s idea without credit, you are still plagiarizing them. Also, most students don’t realize it’s possible to plagiarize yourself, by using your own published ideas without citation.

Basically, any idea that comes from a source (books, articles, websites, videos, previous papers, etc.) needs to be cited.

There can be serious penalties for plagiarism (again, see the Academic Misconduct Policy ). It isn’t worth it to try, and taking the time to properly cite and reference your sources isn’t too difficult once you get in the habit.

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism

  • Don’t procrastinate.
  • Create a reference for all your sources, in the format outlined by your prof.
  • Take detailed notes as your read each source, noting the page numbers for each idea.
  • Paraphrase major points and indicate if an idea is a direct quote.
  • In your paper, properly cite all the ideas from your sources.
  • Create a bibliography or works cited, including references for all your sources.

Organizing Your Readings

Writing a research paper can be difficult and frustrating if you don’t keep your sources organized. Here’s some advice to keep your readings, notes, and bibliographies organized so you don’t run into trouble later.

  • Create a separate folder on your computer for each research project you’re working on.
  • Place all your full-text articles (PDFs) in this folder.
  • Create a complete bibliography entry for each of your sources (including books and other non-digital sources) and save the file to this folder.
  • As you read your sources, take notes under the bibliography entry. Be sure to note the page numbers as appropriate.

When it comes time to put these ideas together into a first draft of your paper, it will be easy to see which ideas came from which source. This will make writing a lot easier, but also help you to see how your sources agree or disagree on your topic, and make sure you avoid accidentally plagiarizing any of your sources.

Many students and researchers like to use a citation management tool to help keep their sources organized, and to create citations and references. If you're interested in this, you may want to have a look at this information about using Zotero , which is one example of a citation manager.

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Benedictine University Library

Research Basics: Understanding the Assignment

  • Understanding the Assignment
  • Choosing a Research Topic
  • Refining a Research Topic
  • Developing a Research Question
  • Deciding What Types of Sources You Will Need
  • Types of Sources
  • Search Techniques
  • Find Books & eBooks This link opens in a new window
  • Choose a Database / Find Articles
  • Find Articles Using the EBSCO Articles tab
  • Find Journals
  • Find Websites using Google
  • Find Articles Using Google Scholar
  • Find Government Documents This link opens in a new window
  • Find Statistics This link opens in a new window
  • Interlibrary Loan This link opens in a new window
  • How to evaluate your sources This link opens in a new window
  • Primary vs. Secondary Sources This link opens in a new window
  • Popular vs. Scholary This link opens in a new window
  • Wheel of Sources
  • Incorporate Sources into Your Research Paper
  • Paraphrasing
  • Voice Markers
  • Using Source Material to Develop/Support an Argument
  • Reasons to Cite Your Sources
  • Citation & Style Guides This link opens in a new window
  • Learning Checks
  • Open Access Educational Resources
  • Research Help

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Read the Assignment Carefully

Reading your assignment carefully can make a huge difference. Here are things to look for in the assignment instructions:

  • Purpose of the assignment.  What should your research project accomplish? What is the role of research and of information sources in the assignment? This will help you determine your research process and timeline. (If you still have questions after closely reading the assignment, ask your instructor.)  
  • Topic guidance and suggestions . Some instructors offer specific suggestions, while others provide guidelines to help you choose a topic yourself. Check for points and questions the instructor wants you to address in your assignment.  
  • Type(s) of recommended sources  for supporting your research.  Think about where you might need to look for the recommended sources. Some will be available through the Benedictine Library collection, and some may be freely available on the Web. For more information see What Types of Sources Do You Need? .  
  • Due date . This will help you determine when you need to start finding sources, reading and analyzing them, and developing your paper or project. Some assignments have different parts due at different times, so check all the due dates.  To help you manage your time, you may wish to use the Benedictine Library Research Project Calculator  
  • Length of the assignment . This will help you determine the scope of your  topic.   
  • Style and formatting information , such as font size, spacing, and citation style. This Citation Guides  guide can help with this.

Highlight and Underline

Highlight or underline the elements that are key to understanding your assignment. If you cannot describe what your assignment is about to someone else, re-read the assignment sheet or talk with your instructor.

Source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

  • Understanding Assignments (handout)
  • << Previous: Step 1: Develop a Topic
  • Next: Choosing a Research Topic >>
  • Last Updated: Feb 2, 2024 11:54 AM
  • URL: https://researchguides.ben.edu/research-basics

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Effective Research Assignments

  • Best Practices

Alternative Research Assignments

Collaboration & discussion through blogs & wikis, topic exploration with online forums.

  • Studies on Student Research

Beyond the Traditional Research Paper

Many instructors experience frustrations with standard research papers .

This page offers some alternatives.

Creative Commons License

These resources give examples of research assignments that take many forms.

  • Community of Online Research Assignments (CORA)
  • Sample Assignments (Oregon State University Libraries)
  • Term Paper Alternatives (King's College)

Please let us know if you have additional assignments to share!

Blogs: Though a class blog, students might reflect on and dialogue about specific aspects of their research process.

Potential blog topics might include:

  • describing one's chosen research topic, why it interests her/him, and why others should care about it,
  • identifying a source that has expanded or challenged thinking about the research topic, or
  • describing how one's research question has evolved over the course of their research.

Wikis: Students doing collaborative research might develop and revise their ideas through a wiki (like those available through CourseDen or platforms like Wikispaces ).

Wiki pages can be organized based on different areas of the student's research topic, or on different aspects of the research process. Potential sections within a wiki could include: 

  • emerging research questions,
  • background information (such as differing perspectives on the research question),
  • the working thesis, and
  • key sources and how they inform the research.

Online platforms like Twitter, blogs, and other online networks can be good springboards for exploring how a topic has been discussed in a certain discipline or community.

Possible activities include:

  • Students examine how different communities (including academic and non-academic ones) converse, share, or create information through social media and other online forums (e.g. blogs, online networks).
  • Students use platforms like Twitter to gain perspective on how a given community or discipline discusses a certain topic or issue. Students compare how the "conversation" is represented differently in other mediums with which that community engaages (e.g. publications, blogs, conferences).
  • Students compare how discussions in specific online communities compare to those that occur through other modes of communication (e.g. in-person discussions, conferences, academic journals, the popular press, magazines). Students might then reflect on how these various communication channels may inform their own approaches to researching a specific issue.  
  • << Previous: Best Practices
  • Next: Studies on Student Research >>
  • Last Updated: Oct 20, 2022 8:56 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.rowan.edu/research_assignments

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Analyzing a Scholarly Journal Article
  • Group Presentations
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • Types of Structured Group Activities
  • Group Project Survival Skills
  • Leading a Class Discussion
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Works
  • Writing a Case Analysis Paper
  • Writing a Case Study
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Reflective Paper
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • Acknowledgments

Definition and Introduction

Case analysis is a problem-based teaching and learning method that involves critically analyzing complex scenarios within an organizational setting for the purpose of placing the student in a “real world” situation and applying reflection and critical thinking skills to contemplate appropriate solutions, decisions, or recommended courses of action. It is considered a more effective teaching technique than in-class role playing or simulation activities. The analytical process is often guided by questions provided by the instructor that ask students to contemplate relationships between the facts and critical incidents described in the case.

Cases generally include both descriptive and statistical elements and rely on students applying abductive reasoning to develop and argue for preferred or best outcomes [i.e., case scenarios rarely have a single correct or perfect answer based on the evidence provided]. Rather than emphasizing theories or concepts, case analysis assignments emphasize building a bridge of relevancy between abstract thinking and practical application and, by so doing, teaches the value of both within a specific area of professional practice.

Given this, the purpose of a case analysis paper is to present a structured and logically organized format for analyzing the case situation. It can be assigned to students individually or as a small group assignment and it may include an in-class presentation component. Case analysis is predominately taught in economics and business-related courses, but it is also a method of teaching and learning found in other applied social sciences disciplines, such as, social work, public relations, education, journalism, and public administration.

Ellet, William. The Case Study Handbook: A Student's Guide . Revised Edition. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing, 2018; Christoph Rasche and Achim Seisreiner. Guidelines for Business Case Analysis . University of Potsdam; Writing a Case Analysis . Writing Center, Baruch College; Volpe, Guglielmo. "Case Teaching in Economics: History, Practice and Evidence." Cogent Economics and Finance 3 (December 2015). doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2015.1120977.

How to Approach Writing a Case Analysis Paper

The organization and structure of a case analysis paper can vary depending on the organizational setting, the situation, and how your professor wants you to approach the assignment. Nevertheless, preparing to write a case analysis paper involves several important steps. As Hawes notes, a case analysis assignment “...is useful in developing the ability to get to the heart of a problem, analyze it thoroughly, and to indicate the appropriate solution as well as how it should be implemented” [p.48]. This statement encapsulates how you should approach preparing to write a case analysis paper.

Before you begin to write your paper, consider the following analytical procedures:

  • Review the case to get an overview of the situation . A case can be only a few pages in length, however, it is most often very lengthy and contains a significant amount of detailed background information and statistics, with multilayered descriptions of the scenario, the roles and behaviors of various stakeholder groups, and situational events. Therefore, a quick reading of the case will help you gain an overall sense of the situation and illuminate the types of issues and problems that you will need to address in your paper. If your professor has provided questions intended to help frame your analysis, use them to guide your initial reading of the case.
  • Read the case thoroughly . After gaining a general overview of the case, carefully read the content again with the purpose of understanding key circumstances, events, and behaviors among stakeholder groups. Look for information or data that appears contradictory, extraneous, or misleading. At this point, you should be taking notes as you read because this will help you develop a general outline of your paper. The aim is to obtain a complete understanding of the situation so that you can begin contemplating tentative answers to any questions your professor has provided or, if they have not provided, developing answers to your own questions about the case scenario and its connection to the course readings,lectures, and class discussions.
  • Determine key stakeholder groups, issues, and events and the relationships they all have to each other . As you analyze the content, pay particular attention to identifying individuals, groups, or organizations described in the case and identify evidence of any problems or issues of concern that impact the situation in a negative way. Other things to look for include identifying any assumptions being made by or about each stakeholder, potential biased explanations or actions, explicit demands or ultimatums , and the underlying concerns that motivate these behaviors among stakeholders. The goal at this stage is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the situational and behavioral dynamics of the case and the explicit and implicit consequences of each of these actions.
  • Identify the core problems . The next step in most case analysis assignments is to discern what the core [i.e., most damaging, detrimental, injurious] problems are within the organizational setting and to determine their implications. The purpose at this stage of preparing to write your analysis paper is to distinguish between the symptoms of core problems and the core problems themselves and to decide which of these must be addressed immediately and which problems do not appear critical but may escalate over time. Identify evidence from the case to support your decisions by determining what information or data is essential to addressing the core problems and what information is not relevant or is misleading.
  • Explore alternative solutions . As noted, case analysis scenarios rarely have only one correct answer. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that the process of analyzing the case and diagnosing core problems, while based on evidence, is a subjective process open to various avenues of interpretation. This means that you must consider alternative solutions or courses of action by critically examining strengths and weaknesses, risk factors, and the differences between short and long-term solutions. For each possible solution or course of action, consider the consequences they may have related to their implementation and how these recommendations might lead to new problems. Also, consider thinking about your recommended solutions or courses of action in relation to issues of fairness, equity, and inclusion.
  • Decide on a final set of recommendations . The last stage in preparing to write a case analysis paper is to assert an opinion or viewpoint about the recommendations needed to help resolve the core problems as you see them and to make a persuasive argument for supporting this point of view. Prepare a clear rationale for your recommendations based on examining each element of your analysis. Anticipate possible obstacles that could derail their implementation. Consider any counter-arguments that could be made concerning the validity of your recommended actions. Finally, describe a set of criteria and measurable indicators that could be applied to evaluating the effectiveness of your implementation plan.

Use these steps as the framework for writing your paper. Remember that the more detailed you are in taking notes as you critically examine each element of the case, the more information you will have to draw from when you begin to write. This will save you time.

NOTE : If the process of preparing to write a case analysis paper is assigned as a student group project, consider having each member of the group analyze a specific element of the case, including drafting answers to the corresponding questions used by your professor to frame the analysis. This will help make the analytical process more efficient and ensure that the distribution of work is equitable. This can also facilitate who is responsible for drafting each part of the final case analysis paper and, if applicable, the in-class presentation.

Framework for Case Analysis . College of Management. University of Massachusetts; Hawes, Jon M. "Teaching is Not Telling: The Case Method as a Form of Interactive Learning." Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 5 (Winter 2004): 47-54; Rasche, Christoph and Achim Seisreiner. Guidelines for Business Case Analysis . University of Potsdam; Writing a Case Study Analysis . University of Arizona Global Campus Writing Center; Van Ness, Raymond K. A Guide to Case Analysis . School of Business. State University of New York, Albany; Writing a Case Analysis . Business School, University of New South Wales.

Structure and Writing Style

A case analysis paper should be detailed, concise, persuasive, clearly written, and professional in tone and in the use of language . As with other forms of college-level academic writing, declarative statements that convey information, provide a fact, or offer an explanation or any recommended courses of action should be based on evidence. If allowed by your professor, any external sources used to support your analysis, such as course readings, should be properly cited under a list of references. The organization and structure of case analysis papers can vary depending on your professor’s preferred format, but its structure generally follows the steps used for analyzing the case.

Introduction

The introduction should provide a succinct but thorough descriptive overview of the main facts, issues, and core problems of the case . The introduction should also include a brief summary of the most relevant details about the situation and organizational setting. This includes defining the theoretical framework or conceptual model on which any questions were used to frame your analysis.

Following the rules of most college-level research papers, the introduction should then inform the reader how the paper will be organized. This includes describing the major sections of the paper and the order in which they will be presented. Unless you are told to do so by your professor, you do not need to preview your final recommendations in the introduction. U nlike most college-level research papers , the introduction does not include a statement about the significance of your findings because a case analysis assignment does not involve contributing new knowledge about a research problem.

Background Analysis

Background analysis can vary depending on any guiding questions provided by your professor and the underlying concept or theory that the case is based upon. In general, however, this section of your paper should focus on:

  • Providing an overarching analysis of problems identified from the case scenario, including identifying events that stakeholders find challenging or troublesome,
  • Identifying assumptions made by each stakeholder and any apparent biases they may exhibit,
  • Describing any demands or claims made by or forced upon key stakeholders, and
  • Highlighting any issues of concern or complaints expressed by stakeholders in response to those demands or claims.

These aspects of the case are often in the form of behavioral responses expressed by individuals or groups within the organizational setting. However, note that problems in a case situation can also be reflected in data [or the lack thereof] and in the decision-making, operational, cultural, or institutional structure of the organization. Additionally, demands or claims can be either internal and external to the organization [e.g., a case analysis involving a president considering arms sales to Saudi Arabia could include managing internal demands from White House advisors as well as demands from members of Congress].

Throughout this section, present all relevant evidence from the case that supports your analysis. Do not simply claim there is a problem, an assumption, a demand, or a concern; tell the reader what part of the case informed how you identified these background elements.

Identification of Problems

In most case analysis assignments, there are problems, and then there are problems . Each problem can reflect a multitude of underlying symptoms that are detrimental to the interests of the organization. The purpose of identifying problems is to teach students how to differentiate between problems that vary in severity, impact, and relative importance. Given this, problems can be described in three general forms: those that must be addressed immediately, those that should be addressed but the impact is not severe, and those that do not require immediate attention and can be set aside for the time being.

All of the problems you identify from the case should be identified in this section of your paper, with a description based on evidence explaining the problem variances. If the assignment asks you to conduct research to further support your assessment of the problems, include this in your explanation. Remember to cite those sources in a list of references. Use specific evidence from the case and apply appropriate concepts, theories, and models discussed in class or in relevant course readings to highlight and explain the key problems [or problem] that you believe must be solved immediately and describe the underlying symptoms and why they are so critical.

Alternative Solutions

This section is where you provide specific, realistic, and evidence-based solutions to the problems you have identified and make recommendations about how to alleviate the underlying symptomatic conditions impacting the organizational setting. For each solution, you must explain why it was chosen and provide clear evidence to support your reasoning. This can include, for example, course readings and class discussions as well as research resources, such as, books, journal articles, research reports, or government documents. In some cases, your professor may encourage you to include personal, anecdotal experiences as evidence to support why you chose a particular solution or set of solutions. Using anecdotal evidence helps promote reflective thinking about the process of determining what qualifies as a core problem and relevant solution .

Throughout this part of the paper, keep in mind the entire array of problems that must be addressed and describe in detail the solutions that might be implemented to resolve these problems.

Recommended Courses of Action

In some case analysis assignments, your professor may ask you to combine the alternative solutions section with your recommended courses of action. However, it is important to know the difference between the two. A solution refers to the answer to a problem. A course of action refers to a procedure or deliberate sequence of activities adopted to proactively confront a situation, often in the context of accomplishing a goal. In this context, proposed courses of action are based on your analysis of alternative solutions. Your description and justification for pursuing each course of action should represent the overall plan for implementing your recommendations.

For each course of action, you need to explain the rationale for your recommendation in a way that confronts challenges, explains risks, and anticipates any counter-arguments from stakeholders. Do this by considering the strengths and weaknesses of each course of action framed in relation to how the action is expected to resolve the core problems presented, the possible ways the action may affect remaining problems, and how the recommended action will be perceived by each stakeholder.

In addition, you should describe the criteria needed to measure how well the implementation of these actions is working and explain which individuals or groups are responsible for ensuring your recommendations are successful. In addition, always consider the law of unintended consequences. Outline difficulties that may arise in implementing each course of action and describe how implementing the proposed courses of action [either individually or collectively] may lead to new problems [both large and small].

Throughout this section, you must consider the costs and benefits of recommending your courses of action in relation to uncertainties or missing information and the negative consequences of success.

The conclusion should be brief and introspective. Unlike a research paper, the conclusion in a case analysis paper does not include a summary of key findings and their significance, a statement about how the study contributed to existing knowledge, or indicate opportunities for future research.

Begin by synthesizing the core problems presented in the case and the relevance of your recommended solutions. This can include an explanation of what you have learned about the case in the context of your answers to the questions provided by your professor. The conclusion is also where you link what you learned from analyzing the case with the course readings or class discussions. This can further demonstrate your understanding of the relationships between the practical case situation and the theoretical and abstract content of assigned readings and other course content.

Problems to Avoid

The literature on case analysis assignments often includes examples of difficulties students have with applying methods of critical analysis and effectively reporting the results of their assessment of the situation. A common reason cited by scholars is that the application of this type of teaching and learning method is limited to applied fields of social and behavioral sciences and, as a result, writing a case analysis paper can be unfamiliar to most students entering college.

After you have drafted your paper, proofread the narrative flow and revise any of these common errors:

  • Unnecessary detail in the background section . The background section should highlight the essential elements of the case based on your analysis. Focus on summarizing the facts and highlighting the key factors that become relevant in the other sections of the paper by eliminating any unnecessary information.
  • Analysis relies too much on opinion . Your analysis is interpretive, but the narrative must be connected clearly to evidence from the case and any models and theories discussed in class or in course readings. Any positions or arguments you make should be supported by evidence.
  • Analysis does not focus on the most important elements of the case . Your paper should provide a thorough overview of the case. However, the analysis should focus on providing evidence about what you identify are the key events, stakeholders, issues, and problems. Emphasize what you identify as the most critical aspects of the case to be developed throughout your analysis. Be thorough but succinct.
  • Writing is too descriptive . A paper with too much descriptive information detracts from your analysis of the complexities of the case situation. Questions about what happened, where, when, and by whom should only be included as essential information leading to your examination of questions related to why, how, and for what purpose.
  • Inadequate definition of a core problem and associated symptoms . A common error found in case analysis papers is recommending a solution or course of action without adequately defining or demonstrating that you understand the problem. Make sure you have clearly described the problem and its impact and scope within the organizational setting. Ensure that you have adequately described the root causes w hen describing the symptoms of the problem.
  • Recommendations lack specificity . Identify any use of vague statements and indeterminate terminology, such as, “A particular experience” or “a large increase to the budget.” These statements cannot be measured and, as a result, there is no way to evaluate their successful implementation. Provide specific data and use direct language in describing recommended actions.
  • Unrealistic, exaggerated, or unattainable recommendations . Review your recommendations to ensure that they are based on the situational facts of the case. Your recommended solutions and courses of action must be based on realistic assumptions and fit within the constraints of the situation. Also note that the case scenario has already happened, therefore, any speculation or arguments about what could have occurred if the circumstances were different should be revised or eliminated.

Bee, Lian Song et al. "Business Students' Perspectives on Case Method Coaching for Problem-Based Learning: Impacts on Student Engagement and Learning Performance in Higher Education." Education & Training 64 (2022): 416-432; The Case Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors. Grand Valley State University; Georgallis, Panikos and Kayleigh Bruijn. "Sustainability Teaching using Case-Based Debates." Journal of International Education in Business 15 (2022): 147-163; Hawes, Jon M. "Teaching is Not Telling: The Case Method as a Form of Interactive Learning." Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 5 (Winter 2004): 47-54; Georgallis, Panikos, and Kayleigh Bruijn. "Sustainability Teaching Using Case-based Debates." Journal of International Education in Business 15 (2022): 147-163; .Dean,  Kathy Lund and Charles J. Fornaciari. "How to Create and Use Experiential Case-Based Exercises in a Management Classroom." Journal of Management Education 26 (October 2002): 586-603; Klebba, Joanne M. and Janet G. Hamilton. "Structured Case Analysis: Developing Critical Thinking Skills in a Marketing Case Course." Journal of Marketing Education 29 (August 2007): 132-137, 139; Klein, Norman. "The Case Discussion Method Revisited: Some Questions about Student Skills." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 30-32; Mukherjee, Arup. "Effective Use of In-Class Mini Case Analysis for Discovery Learning in an Undergraduate MIS Course." The Journal of Computer Information Systems 40 (Spring 2000): 15-23; Pessoa, Silviaet al. "Scaffolding the Case Analysis in an Organizational Behavior Course: Making Analytical Language Explicit." Journal of Management Education 46 (2022): 226-251: Ramsey, V. J. and L. D. Dodge. "Case Analysis: A Structured Approach." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 27-29; Schweitzer, Karen. "How to Write and Format a Business Case Study." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-to-write-and-format-a-business-case-study-466324 (accessed December 5, 2022); Reddy, C. D. "Teaching Research Methodology: Everything's a Case." Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods 18 (December 2020): 178-188; Volpe, Guglielmo. "Case Teaching in Economics: History, Practice and Evidence." Cogent Economics and Finance 3 (December 2015). doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2015.1120977.

Writing Tip

Ca se Study and Case Analysis Are Not the Same!

Confusion often exists between what it means to write a paper that uses a case study research design and writing a paper that analyzes a case; they are two different types of approaches to learning in the social and behavioral sciences. Professors as well as educational researchers contribute to this confusion because they often use the term "case study" when describing the subject of analysis for a case analysis paper. But you are not studying a case for the purpose of generating a comprehensive, multi-faceted understanding of a research problem. R ather, you are critically analyzing a specific scenario to argue logically for recommended solutions and courses of action that lead to optimal outcomes applicable to professional practice.

To avoid any confusion, here are twelve characteristics that delineate the differences between writing a paper using the case study research method and writing a case analysis paper:

  • Case study is a method of in-depth research and rigorous inquiry ; case analysis is a reliable method of teaching and learning . A case study is a modality of research that investigates a phenomenon for the purpose of creating new knowledge, solving a problem, or testing a hypothesis using empirical evidence derived from the case being studied. Often, the results are used to generalize about a larger population or within a wider context. The writing adheres to the traditional standards of a scholarly research study. A case analysis is a pedagogical tool used to teach students how to reflect and think critically about a practical, real-life problem in an organizational setting.
  • The researcher is responsible for identifying the case to study; a case analysis is assigned by your professor . As the researcher, you choose the case study to investigate in support of obtaining new knowledge and understanding about the research problem. The case in a case analysis assignment is almost always provided, and sometimes written, by your professor and either given to every student in class to analyze individually or to a small group of students, or students select a case to analyze from a predetermined list.
  • A case study is indeterminate and boundless; a case analysis is predetermined and confined . A case study can be almost anything [see item 9 below] as long as it relates directly to examining the research problem. This relationship is the only limit to what a researcher can choose as the subject of their case study. The content of a case analysis is determined by your professor and its parameters are well-defined and limited to elucidating insights of practical value applied to practice.
  • Case study is fact-based and describes actual events or situations; case analysis can be entirely fictional or adapted from an actual situation . The entire content of a case study must be grounded in reality to be a valid subject of investigation in an empirical research study. A case analysis only needs to set the stage for critically examining a situation in practice and, therefore, can be entirely fictional or adapted, all or in-part, from an actual situation.
  • Research using a case study method must adhere to principles of intellectual honesty and academic integrity; a case analysis scenario can include misleading or false information . A case study paper must report research objectively and factually to ensure that any findings are understood to be logically correct and trustworthy. A case analysis scenario may include misleading or false information intended to deliberately distract from the central issues of the case. The purpose is to teach students how to sort through conflicting or useless information in order to come up with the preferred solution. Any use of misleading or false information in academic research is considered unethical.
  • Case study is linked to a research problem; case analysis is linked to a practical situation or scenario . In the social sciences, the subject of an investigation is most often framed as a problem that must be researched in order to generate new knowledge leading to a solution. Case analysis narratives are grounded in real life scenarios for the purpose of examining the realities of decision-making behavior and processes within organizational settings. A case analysis assignments include a problem or set of problems to be analyzed. However, the goal is centered around the act of identifying and evaluating courses of action leading to best possible outcomes.
  • The purpose of a case study is to create new knowledge through research; the purpose of a case analysis is to teach new understanding . Case studies are a choice of methodological design intended to create new knowledge about resolving a research problem. A case analysis is a mode of teaching and learning intended to create new understanding and an awareness of uncertainty applied to practice through acts of critical thinking and reflection.
  • A case study seeks to identify the best possible solution to a research problem; case analysis can have an indeterminate set of solutions or outcomes . Your role in studying a case is to discover the most logical, evidence-based ways to address a research problem. A case analysis assignment rarely has a single correct answer because one of the goals is to force students to confront the real life dynamics of uncertainly, ambiguity, and missing or conflicting information within professional practice. Under these conditions, a perfect outcome or solution almost never exists.
  • Case study is unbounded and relies on gathering external information; case analysis is a self-contained subject of analysis . The scope of a case study chosen as a method of research is bounded. However, the researcher is free to gather whatever information and data is necessary to investigate its relevance to understanding the research problem. For a case analysis assignment, your professor will often ask you to examine solutions or recommended courses of action based solely on facts and information from the case.
  • Case study can be a person, place, object, issue, event, condition, or phenomenon; a case analysis is a carefully constructed synopsis of events, situations, and behaviors . The research problem dictates the type of case being studied and, therefore, the design can encompass almost anything tangible as long as it fulfills the objective of generating new knowledge and understanding. A case analysis is in the form of a narrative containing descriptions of facts, situations, processes, rules, and behaviors within a particular setting and under a specific set of circumstances.
  • Case study can represent an open-ended subject of inquiry; a case analysis is a narrative about something that has happened in the past . A case study is not restricted by time and can encompass an event or issue with no temporal limit or end. For example, the current war in Ukraine can be used as a case study of how medical personnel help civilians during a large military conflict, even though circumstances around this event are still evolving. A case analysis can be used to elicit critical thinking about current or future situations in practice, but the case itself is a narrative about something finite and that has taken place in the past.
  • Multiple case studies can be used in a research study; case analysis involves examining a single scenario . Case study research can use two or more cases to examine a problem, often for the purpose of conducting a comparative investigation intended to discover hidden relationships, document emerging trends, or determine variations among different examples. A case analysis assignment typically describes a stand-alone, self-contained situation and any comparisons among cases are conducted during in-class discussions and/or student presentations.

The Case Analysis . Fred Meijer Center for Writing and Michigan Authors. Grand Valley State University; Mills, Albert J. , Gabrielle Durepos, and Eiden Wiebe, editors. Encyclopedia of Case Study Research . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2010; Ramsey, V. J. and L. D. Dodge. "Case Analysis: A Structured Approach." Exchange: The Organizational Behavior Teaching Journal 6 (November 1981): 27-29; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods . 6th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2017; Crowe, Sarah et al. “The Case Study Approach.” BMC Medical Research Methodology 11 (2011):  doi: 10.1186/1471-2288-11-100; Yin, Robert K. Case Study Research: Design and Methods . 4th edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing; 1994.

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  • Last Updated: Feb 8, 2024 10:20 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/assignments

The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Understanding Assignments

What this handout is about.

The first step in any successful college writing venture is reading the assignment. While this sounds like a simple task, it can be a tough one. This handout will help you unravel your assignment and begin to craft an effective response. Much of the following advice will involve translating typical assignment terms and practices into meaningful clues to the type of writing your instructor expects. See our short video for more tips.

Basic beginnings

Regardless of the assignment, department, or instructor, adopting these two habits will serve you well :

  • Read the assignment carefully as soon as you receive it. Do not put this task off—reading the assignment at the beginning will save you time, stress, and problems later. An assignment can look pretty straightforward at first, particularly if the instructor has provided lots of information. That does not mean it will not take time and effort to complete; you may even have to learn a new skill to complete the assignment.
  • Ask the instructor about anything you do not understand. Do not hesitate to approach your instructor. Instructors would prefer to set you straight before you hand the paper in. That’s also when you will find their feedback most useful.

Assignment formats

Many assignments follow a basic format. Assignments often begin with an overview of the topic, include a central verb or verbs that describe the task, and offer some additional suggestions, questions, or prompts to get you started.

An Overview of Some Kind

The instructor might set the stage with some general discussion of the subject of the assignment, introduce the topic, or remind you of something pertinent that you have discussed in class. For example:

“Throughout history, gerbils have played a key role in politics,” or “In the last few weeks of class, we have focused on the evening wear of the housefly …”

The Task of the Assignment

Pay attention; this part tells you what to do when you write the paper. Look for the key verb or verbs in the sentence. Words like analyze, summarize, or compare direct you to think about your topic in a certain way. Also pay attention to words such as how, what, when, where, and why; these words guide your attention toward specific information. (See the section in this handout titled “Key Terms” for more information.)

“Analyze the effect that gerbils had on the Russian Revolution”, or “Suggest an interpretation of housefly undergarments that differs from Darwin’s.”

Additional Material to Think about

Here you will find some questions to use as springboards as you begin to think about the topic. Instructors usually include these questions as suggestions rather than requirements. Do not feel compelled to answer every question unless the instructor asks you to do so. Pay attention to the order of the questions. Sometimes they suggest the thinking process your instructor imagines you will need to follow to begin thinking about the topic.

“You may wish to consider the differing views held by Communist gerbils vs. Monarchist gerbils, or Can there be such a thing as ‘the housefly garment industry’ or is it just a home-based craft?”

These are the instructor’s comments about writing expectations:

“Be concise”, “Write effectively”, or “Argue furiously.”

Technical Details

These instructions usually indicate format rules or guidelines.

“Your paper must be typed in Palatino font on gray paper and must not exceed 600 pages. It is due on the anniversary of Mao Tse-tung’s death.”

The assignment’s parts may not appear in exactly this order, and each part may be very long or really short. Nonetheless, being aware of this standard pattern can help you understand what your instructor wants you to do.

Interpreting the assignment

Ask yourself a few basic questions as you read and jot down the answers on the assignment sheet:

Why did your instructor ask you to do this particular task?

Who is your audience.

  • What kind of evidence do you need to support your ideas?

What kind of writing style is acceptable?

  • What are the absolute rules of the paper?

Try to look at the question from the point of view of the instructor. Recognize that your instructor has a reason for giving you this assignment and for giving it to you at a particular point in the semester. In every assignment, the instructor has a challenge for you. This challenge could be anything from demonstrating an ability to think clearly to demonstrating an ability to use the library. See the assignment not as a vague suggestion of what to do but as an opportunity to show that you can handle the course material as directed. Paper assignments give you more than a topic to discuss—they ask you to do something with the topic. Keep reminding yourself of that. Be careful to avoid the other extreme as well: do not read more into the assignment than what is there.

Of course, your instructor has given you an assignment so that he or she will be able to assess your understanding of the course material and give you an appropriate grade. But there is more to it than that. Your instructor has tried to design a learning experience of some kind. Your instructor wants you to think about something in a particular way for a particular reason. If you read the course description at the beginning of your syllabus, review the assigned readings, and consider the assignment itself, you may begin to see the plan, purpose, or approach to the subject matter that your instructor has created for you. If you still aren’t sure of the assignment’s goals, try asking the instructor. For help with this, see our handout on getting feedback .

Given your instructor’s efforts, it helps to answer the question: What is my purpose in completing this assignment? Is it to gather research from a variety of outside sources and present a coherent picture? Is it to take material I have been learning in class and apply it to a new situation? Is it to prove a point one way or another? Key words from the assignment can help you figure this out. Look for key terms in the form of active verbs that tell you what to do.

Key Terms: Finding Those Active Verbs

Here are some common key words and definitions to help you think about assignment terms:

Information words Ask you to demonstrate what you know about the subject, such as who, what, when, where, how, and why.

  • define —give the subject’s meaning (according to someone or something). Sometimes you have to give more than one view on the subject’s meaning
  • describe —provide details about the subject by answering question words (such as who, what, when, where, how, and why); you might also give details related to the five senses (what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell)
  • explain —give reasons why or examples of how something happened
  • illustrate —give descriptive examples of the subject and show how each is connected with the subject
  • summarize —briefly list the important ideas you learned about the subject
  • trace —outline how something has changed or developed from an earlier time to its current form
  • research —gather material from outside sources about the subject, often with the implication or requirement that you will analyze what you have found

Relation words Ask you to demonstrate how things are connected.

  • compare —show how two or more things are similar (and, sometimes, different)
  • contrast —show how two or more things are dissimilar
  • apply—use details that you’ve been given to demonstrate how an idea, theory, or concept works in a particular situation
  • cause —show how one event or series of events made something else happen
  • relate —show or describe the connections between things

Interpretation words Ask you to defend ideas of your own about the subject. Do not see these words as requesting opinion alone (unless the assignment specifically says so), but as requiring opinion that is supported by concrete evidence. Remember examples, principles, definitions, or concepts from class or research and use them in your interpretation.

  • assess —summarize your opinion of the subject and measure it against something
  • prove, justify —give reasons or examples to demonstrate how or why something is the truth
  • evaluate, respond —state your opinion of the subject as good, bad, or some combination of the two, with examples and reasons
  • support —give reasons or evidence for something you believe (be sure to state clearly what it is that you believe)
  • synthesize —put two or more things together that have not been put together in class or in your readings before; do not just summarize one and then the other and say that they are similar or different—you must provide a reason for putting them together that runs all the way through the paper
  • analyze —determine how individual parts create or relate to the whole, figure out how something works, what it might mean, or why it is important
  • argue —take a side and defend it with evidence against the other side

More Clues to Your Purpose As you read the assignment, think about what the teacher does in class:

  • What kinds of textbooks or coursepack did your instructor choose for the course—ones that provide background information, explain theories or perspectives, or argue a point of view?
  • In lecture, does your instructor ask your opinion, try to prove her point of view, or use keywords that show up again in the assignment?
  • What kinds of assignments are typical in this discipline? Social science classes often expect more research. Humanities classes thrive on interpretation and analysis.
  • How do the assignments, readings, and lectures work together in the course? Instructors spend time designing courses, sometimes even arguing with their peers about the most effective course materials. Figuring out the overall design to the course will help you understand what each assignment is meant to achieve.

Now, what about your reader? Most undergraduates think of their audience as the instructor. True, your instructor is a good person to keep in mind as you write. But for the purposes of a good paper, think of your audience as someone like your roommate: smart enough to understand a clear, logical argument, but not someone who already knows exactly what is going on in your particular paper. Remember, even if the instructor knows everything there is to know about your paper topic, he or she still has to read your paper and assess your understanding. In other words, teach the material to your reader.

Aiming a paper at your audience happens in two ways: you make decisions about the tone and the level of information you want to convey.

  • Tone means the “voice” of your paper. Should you be chatty, formal, or objective? Usually you will find some happy medium—you do not want to alienate your reader by sounding condescending or superior, but you do not want to, um, like, totally wig on the man, you know? Eschew ostentatious erudition: some students think the way to sound academic is to use big words. Be careful—you can sound ridiculous, especially if you use the wrong big words.
  • The level of information you use depends on who you think your audience is. If you imagine your audience as your instructor and she already knows everything you have to say, you may find yourself leaving out key information that can cause your argument to be unconvincing and illogical. But you do not have to explain every single word or issue. If you are telling your roommate what happened on your favorite science fiction TV show last night, you do not say, “First a dark-haired white man of average height, wearing a suit and carrying a flashlight, walked into the room. Then a purple alien with fifteen arms and at least three eyes turned around. Then the man smiled slightly. In the background, you could hear a clock ticking. The room was fairly dark and had at least two windows that I saw.” You also do not say, “This guy found some aliens. The end.” Find some balance of useful details that support your main point.

You’ll find a much more detailed discussion of these concepts in our handout on audience .

The Grim Truth

With a few exceptions (including some lab and ethnography reports), you are probably being asked to make an argument. You must convince your audience. It is easy to forget this aim when you are researching and writing; as you become involved in your subject matter, you may become enmeshed in the details and focus on learning or simply telling the information you have found. You need to do more than just repeat what you have read. Your writing should have a point, and you should be able to say it in a sentence. Sometimes instructors call this sentence a “thesis” or a “claim.”

So, if your instructor tells you to write about some aspect of oral hygiene, you do not want to just list: “First, you brush your teeth with a soft brush and some peanut butter. Then, you floss with unwaxed, bologna-flavored string. Finally, gargle with bourbon.” Instead, you could say, “Of all the oral cleaning methods, sandblasting removes the most plaque. Therefore it should be recommended by the American Dental Association.” Or, “From an aesthetic perspective, moldy teeth can be quite charming. However, their joys are short-lived.”

Convincing the reader of your argument is the goal of academic writing. It doesn’t have to say “argument” anywhere in the assignment for you to need one. Look at the assignment and think about what kind of argument you could make about it instead of just seeing it as a checklist of information you have to present. For help with understanding the role of argument in academic writing, see our handout on argument .

What kind of evidence do you need?

There are many kinds of evidence, and what type of evidence will work for your assignment can depend on several factors–the discipline, the parameters of the assignment, and your instructor’s preference. Should you use statistics? Historical examples? Do you need to conduct your own experiment? Can you rely on personal experience? See our handout on evidence for suggestions on how to use evidence appropriately.

Make sure you are clear about this part of the assignment, because your use of evidence will be crucial in writing a successful paper. You are not just learning how to argue; you are learning how to argue with specific types of materials and ideas. Ask your instructor what counts as acceptable evidence. You can also ask a librarian for help. No matter what kind of evidence you use, be sure to cite it correctly—see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial .

You cannot always tell from the assignment just what sort of writing style your instructor expects. The instructor may be really laid back in class but still expect you to sound formal in writing. Or the instructor may be fairly formal in class and ask you to write a reflection paper where you need to use “I” and speak from your own experience.

Try to avoid false associations of a particular field with a style (“art historians like wacky creativity,” or “political scientists are boring and just give facts”) and look instead to the types of readings you have been given in class. No one expects you to write like Plato—just use the readings as a guide for what is standard or preferable to your instructor. When in doubt, ask your instructor about the level of formality she or he expects.

No matter what field you are writing for or what facts you are including, if you do not write so that your reader can understand your main idea, you have wasted your time. So make clarity your main goal. For specific help with style, see our handout on style .

Technical details about the assignment

The technical information you are given in an assignment always seems like the easy part. This section can actually give you lots of little hints about approaching the task. Find out if elements such as page length and citation format (see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial ) are negotiable. Some professors do not have strong preferences as long as you are consistent and fully answer the assignment. Some professors are very specific and will deduct big points for deviations.

Usually, the page length tells you something important: The instructor thinks the size of the paper is appropriate to the assignment’s parameters. In plain English, your instructor is telling you how many pages it should take for you to answer the question as fully as you are expected to. So if an assignment is two pages long, you cannot pad your paper with examples or reword your main idea several times. Hit your one point early, defend it with the clearest example, and finish quickly. If an assignment is ten pages long, you can be more complex in your main points and examples—and if you can only produce five pages for that assignment, you need to see someone for help—as soon as possible.

Tricks that don’t work

Your instructors are not fooled when you:

  • spend more time on the cover page than the essay —graphics, cool binders, and cute titles are no replacement for a well-written paper.
  • use huge fonts, wide margins, or extra spacing to pad the page length —these tricks are immediately obvious to the eye. Most instructors use the same word processor you do. They know what’s possible. Such tactics are especially damning when the instructor has a stack of 60 papers to grade and yours is the only one that low-flying airplane pilots could read.
  • use a paper from another class that covered “sort of similar” material . Again, the instructor has a particular task for you to fulfill in the assignment that usually relates to course material and lectures. Your other paper may not cover this material, and turning in the same paper for more than one course may constitute an Honor Code violation . Ask the instructor—it can’t hurt.
  • get all wacky and “creative” before you answer the question . Showing that you are able to think beyond the boundaries of a simple assignment can be good, but you must do what the assignment calls for first. Again, check with your instructor. A humorous tone can be refreshing for someone grading a stack of papers, but it will not get you a good grade if you have not fulfilled the task.

Critical reading of assignments leads to skills in other types of reading and writing. If you get good at figuring out what the real goals of assignments are, you are going to be better at understanding the goals of all of your classes and fields of study.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Design a Library Research Assignment

  • Critical Thinking

Information Literacy Sample Assignments

  • Guidelines for an Effective Assignment

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These assignments draw upon elements of critical thinking. They are easily adapted to many subjects.   1. Outline a Research Paper. Students plan and perform research, without actually writing a paper. Tasks include developing a research question, providing an annotated bibliography of sources, and writing an introduction, thesis statement, and conclusion. May be used as a stand-alone assignment, or as preparation for a research project.   2. Compare Search Results Between a Free Search Engine and a Library Database. Helps students appreciate the differences between the information found on the "free" Web available through search engines such as Google, and information found in subscription periodical databases such as EBSCO’s Academic Search Ultimate .   3. Critique Wikipedia. Requires students to provide in-depth criticism and analysis of a Wikipedia article. Students examine the bibliography of the Wikipedia entry to see how well it supports the entry itself, and then perform their own research to see if other sources either corroborate or dispute the claims made in the Wikipedia entry. This assignment addresses students’ research and critical analysis skills.   4. Examine Bias. Raises awareness of media bias and employs database research skills. Students locate and cite one article from a conservative publication, and another on the same topic from a liberal publication. Students then compare, contrast and evaluate the two articles.   5. Evaluate Scholarly Research. Students find two journal articles on the same topic, and, in a short paper, compare, contrast and evaluate the two articles according to the quality of their research. This assignment helps sharpen students' skills of critical evaluation, and helps them appreciate the importance of good research.   6. Write a Letter to the Editor. Teaches writing, critical thinking, and research skills. Without doing any research, students write a letter in which they take a position on a contemporary issue. Students then share letters with their classmates, with whom they give and receive feedback on ways that the letter could be substantiated and improved. Students then develop a short research paper from the letter. Adapted and used with permission from St. John’s University Libraries.

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Research Proposal Assignment

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Note to instructors: This research proposal assignment may be used as part of an ongoing research project, or it may be used as a stand-alone project. Because these guidelines are intentionally vague, instructors may want to edit/add details to the "Task" section. You are encouraged to adopt, adapt, or remix these guidelines to suit your goals for your class. 

  • Rough Draft:
  • Peer Review:
  • Final Draft: 

This assignment will make you aware of how writers and researchers consider, plan, and justify new research.

  • Locate a variety of scholarly print and digital sources that represent multiple perspectives on a topic. 
  • Analyze sources by critically reading, annotating, engaging, comparing, and drawing implications.
  • Methods for conducting research
  • Analytical and persuasive writing strategies 

A research proposal establishes the need for new research on a given topic or issue and presents a plan for conducting that research and analyzing the findings. In your research proposal, you will conduct preliminary research on a topic in order to develop a well-thought-out plan for a larger potential research project.      Your research proposal should have four parts: introduction, research review, methodology, and conclusion.  

Introduction

In the introduction, identify the topic and establish the purpose of your project. Provide appropriate background information to clarify the context. Communicate your project’s significance by explaining why the proposed project is important and how it will contribute to the existing field of knowledge. 

Research Review

Locate at least five credible sources on your topic. At least three sources should be from peer-reviewed journals (found through GALILEO); the others should be from credible newspapers or magazines. Explain the sources’ relevance to your topic, and discuss the significant commonalities and conflicts that you notice between your sources.

Methodology

Based on what you learned from your research review, discuss how you will proceed with your proposed project:

  • What questions still need to be answered about your topic? Explain why those questions are significant.
  • Given your proposal’s purpose and audience, what information do you still need to demonstrate your project’s value?  
  • What steps will you take to gather this information?
  • Discuss potential challenges (e.g., language and/or cultural barriers, potential safety concerns, time constraints, etc.) and how you plan to overcome them.  

Remind your reader of the potential benefits of your proposed research. Consider: Who will potentially benefit from your proposed research? What will your research contribute to knowledge and understanding about your topic?

Formatting Requirements

Cite all sources using MLA, 9th edition, format both within the research proposal and on the Works Cited page. Use black Calibri or Times New Roman font in size 12. Double-space the entire document. Use 1-inch margins on all sides. 

Criteria for success 

General criteria:  .

  • The research proposal includes at least five credible sources.
  • At least three sources are from peer-reviewed journals (found through GALILEO).
  • All sources are cited properly, both within the body of the proposal and on the Works Cited page.  
  • The proposal is cohesive/stays on topic.
  • The writing is clear and coherent/makes sense.
  • The tone and language are appropriate for the audience and purpose.
  • The writing adheres to grammar and punctuation rules.
  • The proposal has an interesting, relevant title.
  • The writer has gone through the entire writing process, revising substantially and thoughtfully. 

In the introduction, you should. . .  

  • Identify the topic.
  • Provide appropriate background information to clarify the context.  
  • Establish the purpose of the project.
  • Explain why the proposed project is important and how it will contribute to the existing field of knowledge on your topic.

In the research review, you should . . .

  • Describe the sources’ relevance to your topic.
  • Note significant commonalities among your sources.
  • Discuss conflicts between your sources. 
  • Introduce questions that need to be answered and make it clear why they are significant.

In the methodology section, you should . . .

  • Explain what information you still need to fulfill the purpose of the project you are proposing.
  • Describe how you plan to conduct additional research to gather necessary information.
  • Discuss potential challenges (e.g. language and/or cultural barriers, potential safety concerns, time constraints, etc.) and how you plan to overcome them.  

In the conclusion, you should . . .  

  • Note who will potentially benefit from your proposed research.
  • Note what your research will contribute to the area of study. 

The research proposal should adhere to the following formatting criteria:  

  • Follow MLA format throughout the research proposal and on the Works Cited page.
  • The entire document should be double-spaced.  
  • The font should be Calibri or Times New Roman in size 12.
  • The margins should be one inch on all sides. 

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This material was developed by the COMPSS team and is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License . All materials created by the COMPSS team are free to use and can be adopted, adapted, and/or shared as long as the materials are attributed. Please keep this information on materials you use, adapt, and/or share.

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Addressing yale’s history of slavery — and building a stronger community.

Kimberly Goff-Crews and Charles Warner

View Slideshow 9 Photos

On Feb. 16, Yale University marked a milestone in its comprehensive, long-term examination of the university’s historical role in and associations with slavery, publishing a related peer-reviewed book and announcing several new commitments and actions in response to its findings.

The book, “Yale and Slavery: A History,” which is available in a free digital version , was authored by Yale Professor David W. Blight with the Yale and Slavery Research Project, a group convened in 2020 to better understand the university’s history — specifically its formative ties to slavery and the slave trade. The group included faculty, staff, students, and New Haven community members.

To mark the occasion, Yale also hosted a campus event, broadcast via livestream, in which members of the university and New Haven communities highlighted the research project’s findings and Yale’s new commitments to create a stronger community. See photo slideshow above and watch a recording of the full event .

The findings of the Yale and Slavery Research project, Salovey said Friday, “provide a deeper, more honest understanding of who we are and how we got here.

“ The efforts of the team give us a necessary foundation from which to build a stronger, more knowledgeable and more vibrant university — indeed a more vibrant society.”

Other speakers included Kimberly Goff-Crews, the university secretary and vice president for university life; Blight, Sterling Professor of History and African American Studies and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale; and project member Charles Warner, chairman of the Connecticut Freedom Trail, member of the Amistad Committee Inc. Board of Directors, and chairman of the Dixwell Congregational Church History Committee.

Learn about the project and its findings at the Yale and Slavery Research Project website .

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Five Yale scholars named Sloan fellows for early-career excellence

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99 million people included in largest global vaccine safety study

19 February 2024

Health and medicine , Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

The Global Vaccine Data Network, hosted at the University of Auckland, utilises vast data sets to detect potential vaccine safety signals

Global Vaccine Data Network co-director Dr Helen Petousis-Harris: Latest study uses vast data sets to ensure vaccine safety.

The Global Vaccine Data Network (GVDN) assessed 13 neurological, blood, and heart related medical conditions to see if there was a greater risk of them occurring after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine in the latest of eight studies in the Global COVID Vaccine Safety (GCoVS) Project.

Recently published in the journal Vaccine , this observed versus expected rates study included 99 million people (over 23 million person-years of follow-up) from 10 collaborator sites across eight countries. The study identified the pre-established safety signals for myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the thin sac covering the heart) after mRNA vaccines, and Guillain-Barré syndrome (muscle weakness and changed sensation (feeling)), and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (type of blood clot in the brain) after viral vector vaccines.

Possible safety signals for transverse myelitis (inflammation of part of the spinal cord) after viral vector vaccines and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (inflammation and swelling in the brain and spinal cord) after viral vector and mRNA vaccines were identified.

So far, these findings were further investigated by the GVDN site in Victoria, Australia. Their study and results are described in the accompanying paper. Results are available for public review on GVDN’s interactive data dashboards .

Observed versus expected analyses are used to detect potential vaccine safety signals. These studies look at all people who received a vaccine and examine if there is a greater risk for developing a medical condition in various time periods after getting a vaccine compared with a period before the vaccine became available.

Lead author Kristýna Faksová of the Department of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark, remarked that use of a common protocol and aggregation of the data through the GVDN makes studies like this possible. “The size of the population in this study increased the possibility of identifying rare potential vaccine safety signals,” she explains. “Single sites or regions are unlikely to have a large enough population to detect very rare signals.”

By making the data dashboards publicly available, we are able to support greater transparency, and stronger communications to the health sector and public.

Associate Professor Helen Petousis-Harris Co-Director, Global Vaccine Data Network hosted at University of Auckland

GVDN Co-Director Dr. Steven Black said, “GVDN supports a coordinated global effort to assess vaccine safety and effectiveness so that vaccine questions can be addressed in a more rapid, efficient, and cost-effective manner. We have a number of studies underway to build upon our understanding of vaccines and how we understand vaccine safety using big data.”

GVDN Co-Director Dr. Helen Petousis-Harris said, “By making the data dashboards publicly available, we are able to support greater transparency, and stronger communications to the health sector and public.”

The GCoVS Project was made possible with support by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to allow the comparison of the safety of vaccines across diverse global populations.  

About the Global Data Vaccine Network

Established in 2019 and with data sourced from millions of individuals across six continents, the GVDN collaborates with renowned research institutions, policy makers, and vaccine related organisations to establish a harmonised and evidence-based approach to vaccine safety and effectiveness.

The GVDN is supported by the Global Coordinating Centre based at Auckland UniServices Ltd, a not-for-profit, stand-alone company that provides support to researchers and is wholly owned by the University of Auckland. Aiming to gain a comprehensive understanding of vaccine safety and effectiveness profiles, the GVDN strives to create a safer immunisation landscape that empowers decision making for the global community. For further information, visit globalvaccinedatanetwork.org.

Disclaimer: This news release summarises the key findings of the GVDN observed versus expected study. To view the full publication in Vaccine, visit doi.org/10.1016/j.vaccine.2024.01.100.

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totalling US$10,108,491 with 100% percentage funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit cdc.gov

Media inquiries: gvdn@auckland.ac.nz and communications@univervices.co.nz

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Biology student’s research project examines toxins, breast milk and Nursing Madonnas

research this assignment

By Kassidy Lammers ’24

Many items people encounter in everyday life contribute to the consumption of environmental toxins, which can be transferred across generations through breast milk. That is a key finding of University of Dayton senior Rihanna Domingos’ research project that explores the long term impact of harmful chemicals.

Domingos, a biology major from Louisville, Kentucky, is collaborating on the project with Neomi De Anda, associate professor of religious studies and executive director of the International Marian Research Institute . Domingos will present her research April 17 at the Br. Joseph W. Stander Symposium.

The project began in June 2023 through the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Summer Fellowship program , which provides opportunities for students to work with a faculty mentor on an original research project.

Domingos examined the presence of toxins in countries in Asia, Europe and South America, and plans to expand her research to include specific regions in North America.

“I got to look into polychlorinated biphenyls, which are one of the main environmental toxins that are found in our daily lives today,” Domingos said. “They have been banned since the 1970s because their impacts were so significant.”

Polychlorinated biphenyls were used in industrial products such as electrical equipment, hydraulic fluids and heat transfer fluids. Despite having been outlawed in the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1979, side effects of their use continue to be linked to children and young adults today.

“When we eat certain foods or use certain products that have been exposed to these toxins, it becomes present in our bodies, and studies have shown that they don’t just go away,” Domingos said.

In addition, Domingos said people may ingest harmful toxins as infants and toddlers through breast milk from a mother who was previously exposed, allowing these chemicals to be passed from generation to generation.

The presence of environmental toxins in infants has been linked to low birth weight, altered hormone levels and diseases such as cancer, Domingos said. She also found increased instances of women having miscarriages and lacking a sufficient breast milk supply after child birth, which is directly tied to their exposure to environmental toxins throughout their lifetimes.

“It’s crazy to think about how something can have such a domino effect,” she said. “Breast milk is so essential to humanity — everyone brought into this world needs to be fed. And for most, this is done through breastfeeding. So to look at things like this and see how it has impacted breastfeeding rates is so interesting.”

DSF, 2023-24

Domingos’ research extends beyond biology. Along with examining the impacts of specific toxins in breast milk, she worked with De Anda to draw connections between breastfeeding practices and images of Nursing Madonnas, which have been part of the Christian tradition for centuries.

“In the Catholic Church, there is this notion of ‘traditioning’ — that we continue to build traditions as sources for theological thought,” De Anda said. “Rihanna’s research shows us the importance of thinking about ‘traditioning’ as something that is not just pure, spiritual and always positive. Even things that many times carry a positive message, like nursing, often carry a much more complex message.”

De Anda’s research focuses on an ecotheology project about understanding images of Nursing Madonnas as well as the environmental impacts on breastfeeding infants. Domingos’ research provides a scientific basis for the theological framework, De Anda said.

“Our discussions have been so much fun,” De Anda said. “I’ve learned so much from her and her research — she has helped me understand some of the scientific pieces further. I have expertise in a certain area, but not every single area, so to have someone else work with me on research and be dedicated to it is amazing.”

Domingos’ research also provides a framework for her future career in microbiology. She said her experience working with De Anda not only helped her develop research-specific skills, but also a desire to use her knowledge to make a difference in the world.

“It’s easy to just fall into that ‘I don’t care’ mentality with these big issues, because it seems like there’s nothing we can do,” Domingos said. “If we, at our age, live in ignorance, then the next generation will live in ignorance. But if we have the conversations, get to the root of the issues and talk about how we can change the narrative, we really can make the change.”

For more information, visit the Department of Biology and Department of Religious Studies websites.

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Religious studies professor honored as co-editor of ‘American Catholic Studies’

UD theologian Nicholas Rademacher was honored for his role as co-editor of the journal, American Catholic Studies .

University Statement

Dear Members of the Yale Community,

Several years ago, we embarked on a journey to understand better our university’s history—specifically Yale’s formative ties to slavery and the slave trade. We chose to do this because we have a responsibility to the pursuit of truth and the dissemination of knowledge, both foundational to the mission of our university. Confronting this history helps us to build a stronger community and realize our aspirations to create a better future.

Today, on behalf of Yale University, we recognize our university’s historical role in and associations with slavery, as well as the labor, the experiences, and the contributions of enslaved people to our university’s history, and we apologize for the ways that Yale’s leaders, over the course of our early history, participated in slavery. Acknowledging and apologizing for this history are only part of the path forward. These findings have propelled us toward meaningful action to address the continued effects of slavery in society today.

Since October 2020, members of the Yale and Slavery Research Project have conducted intensive research to provide a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of the university’s past. The Research Project included faculty, staff, students, and New Haven community members, and it was led by David W. Blight, Sterling Professor of History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. Members of the group shared their results publicly as they did their work, and the university has steadily launched programs and initiatives in response.

The full findings from this project are now published by Yale University Press in a scholarly, peer-reviewed book authored by Professor Blight and members of the Yale and Slavery Research Project. Key findings and the full book are available to all online .

Yale and Slavery Research Findings

The Yale and Slavery Research Project has deepened greatly our understanding of our university’s history with slavery and the role of enslaved individuals who participated in the construction of a Yale building or whose labor enriched prominent leaders who made gifts to Yale. Although there are no known records of Yale University owning enslaved people, many of Yale’s Puritan founders owned enslaved people, as did a significant number of Yale’s early leaders and other prominent members of the university community, and the Research Project has identified over 200 of these enslaved people. The majority of those who were enslaved are identified as Black, but some are identified as Indigenous. Some of those enslaved participated in the construction of Connecticut Hall, the oldest building on campus. Others worked in cotton fields, rum refineries, and other punishing places in Connecticut or elsewhere, and their grueling labor benefited those who contributed funds to Yale.

We also know that prominent members of the Yale community joined with New Haven leaders and citizens to stop a proposal to build a college in New Haven for Black youth in 1831, which would have been America’s first Black college. Additional aspects of Yale’s history are illuminated in the book’s findings, including the Yale Civil War Memorial that honors those who fought for the North and the South without any mention of slavery or other context.

Our Forward-Looking Commitment

Today, we announce actions based upon the Research Project’s findings and our university’s history by focusing on systemic issues that echo in our nation’s legacy of slavery—specifically, increasing educational access and expanding educational pathways for local youth in the New Haven community. These build on the initiatives and programs we have launched throughout the past few years as members of the project shared their research.

The new work we undertake advances inclusive economic growth in New Haven. Aligned with our core educational mission, we also are ensuring that our history, in its entirety, is better reflected across campus, and we are creating widespread access to Yale’s historical findings. We highlight some of our commitments below. The full details of the university’s response are available on the Yale and Slavery Research Project website .

Increasing Educational Access and Excellence in Teaching and Research

The lost opportunity to build a college for Black youths in New Haven in 1831 prompts us to strengthen our partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities ( HBCU s) across the country today and expand educational pathways for young scholars in our home city.

  • New Haven School Teachers: New Haven, as well as the rest of the country, is dealing with an acute and ongoing teacher shortage; in our city, there were eighty teaching positions that went unfilled during the last academic year. There are many reasons for this shortage, including the high costs of acquiring certification and a Master’s in Teaching degree, compared to the relatively modest compensation in the profession. We are partnering with the New Haven Public School system, New Haven Promise, and Southern Connecticut State University to design and implement a new residency fellowship program to provide funding to aspiring teachers, so they can attain a Master’s in Teaching degree in exchange for a commitment of at least three years of service in the New Haven Public School system. Once launched, this fellowship program aims to place 100 teachers with master’s degrees into the city’s schools in five years. 
  • Yale and Slavery Teachers Institute Program: Yale is launching a four-year teacher’s institute in summer 2025 to foster innovation in the ways regional history is taught. This program will help K-12 teachers in New England meet new state mandates for incorporating Black and Indigenous history into their curricula. Each year, a cohort of teachers will engage with partners within and outside of the university community to study content and methods related to a particular theme, using the book Yale and Slavery: A History as a springboard. The first year of the program will focus on Indigenous history, followed by slavery in the north, and Reconstruction and the Black freedom struggle. Led by the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at the Yale MacMillan Center, the program will provide a platform for teachers in New England to co-develop curricular materials, in collaboration with scholars, public historians, Native communities, and other groups. The pedagogical materials and methods created through the program will be disseminated broadly for the benefit of students, educators, and the general public throughout the region.
  • HBCU Research Partnerships: We continue to expand our research partnerships with HBCU s across the country with pathways programs for students, opportunities for faculty collaboration, and faculty exchange programs. The university will announce a significant new investment in the coming weeks.
  • New Haven Promise Program: In January 2022, Yale expanded its contribution to New Haven Promise , by 25 percent annually, from $4 million to $5 million, and extended its commitment through June 2026. New Haven Promise has supported more than 2,800 New Haven Public School students through scholarships and career development programs.
  • Pennington Fellowships: In December 2022, Yale launched a new scholarship to support New Haven high school graduates to attend one of our partner HBCU institutions (Hampton University, Howard University, Morehouse College, Morgan State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Spelman College). The program is designed to help address historical disparities in educational opportunities for students from New Haven and will grow to include forty to fifty Pennington scholars at any given time, supporting students in their academic, financial, and career entry success.
  • Law School Access Program: Yale Law School’s pipeline program serves first-generation, low-income, and under-represented students from New Haven. The program invests in a class of up to twenty fellows who are passionate about uplifting their local communities in New Haven and Connecticut. Yale began centrally co-funding the program with the Law School in 2024 to ensure its long-term stability.
  • K-12 Educational Outreach in New Haven: Yale supports many programs for youth in New Haven and surrounding communities, and thousands of public school children take part in Yale-funded academic and social development programs . These include Yale’s Pathways to Science and Yale’s Pathways to Arts and Humanities programs.

Advancing Inclusive Economic Growth in New Haven

We remain committed to partnering with our home city of New Haven to create vibrant shared communities with increased economic opportunities. This builds on our ongoing work with the New Haven community, which includes increasing what was already the largest voluntary payment by a university to its host city in the country to approximately $135 million over six years and the creation of a new Center for Inclusive Growth to develop and implement strategies to grow the city economically.

  • Dixwell Plaza: Yale recently signed a ten-year letter of intent for space at Dixwell Plaza to support the development of a state-of-the-art mixed-use retail, residential, and cultural hub in Dixwell’s historically Black community center that is rooted in restorative economic development. Yale is working on this initiative with the Connecticut Community Outreach and Revitalization Program (ConnCORP), a local organization whose mission is to provide opportunities to New Haven’s underserved residents.
  • Community Investment Program: Yale’s community investment program works with independently owned retail businesses. Most recently, University Properties has supported a growing number of locally owned brick-and-mortar businesses, including restaurants and retail clothing stores. This program brings jobs to New Haven residents and expands the city’s tax base.

Acknowledging Our Past

The research findings make clear that Yale’s foundations are inextricably bound with the economic and political systems of slavery. That history is not fully evident on our campus, and we are working to ensure that our physical campus provides members of our community with a more complete view of the university’s history.

  • Transforming Connecticut Hall: Connecticut Hall, constructed in the mid-eighteenth century using in part the labor of enslaved people, is being reconstituted as a place of healing and communion as the new home of the Yale Chaplaincy. The Yale Committee for Art Representing Enslavement will make recommendations for how the building’s history with slavery can be acknowledged and made evident through art. The renovated building is currently slated to be reopened in summer 2025.
  • Civil War Memorial: Yale’s Civil War Memorial, located in Memorial Hall and dedicated in 1915, is a “Lost Cause” monument. However, the purpose and meaning of the memorial are largely unknown to most who walk past it. Recently, an educational display was installed near the memorial to inform visitors about its history and provide additional resources.
  • Committee for Art Recognizing Enslavement: In June 2023, we launched the Yale Committee for Art Recognizing Enslavement , which includes representatives from both the Yale and New Haven communities. The committee is working with (and soliciting input from) members of the campus and New Haven communities to commission works of art and related programming to address Yale’s historical roles in and associations with slavery and the slave trade, as well as the legacy of that history.
  • M.A. Privatim degrees: In April 2023, the Yale board of trustees voted to confer M.A. Privatim degrees on the Reverend James W. C. Pennington (c. 1807-1870) and the Reverend Alexander Crummell (1819-1898). Both men studied theology at Yale, but because they were Black, the university did not allow them to register formally for classes or matriculate for a degree. On September 14, 2023, the university held a ceremony to honor the two men and commemorate the conferral of the degrees.

Creating Widespread Access to Historical Findings

Yale and Slavery: A History provides a more complete narrative of Yale’s history and that of New Haven, Connecticut, and our nation. Aligned with our core educational mission, we will provide opportunities for communities within and beyond Yale’s campus to learn from the findings.

  • New Haven Museum Exhibition: Today, we open a new exhibition at the New Haven Museum, created in collaboration with the Yale University Library, Yale and Slavery Research Project, and the Museum. On view through the summer, the exhibition complements the publication of Yale and Slavery: A History and draws from the research project’s key findings in areas such as the economy and trade, Black churches and schools, the 1831 Black college proposal, and memory and memorialization in the 20th century and today. The exhibition has a special focus on stories of Black New Haven, including early Black students and alumni of Yale, from the 1830s to 1940. There is no admission fee for viewing the exhibition.
  • Book Distribution: We are providing copies of the book, Yale and Slavery: A History to each public library and high school in New Haven, as well as the local churches and other community organizations. We also have subsidized a free digital version that is available to everyone.
  • DeVane Lecture in Fall 2024: Professor Blight will teach the next DeVane Lecture in the fall 2024 semester. Students can take the course for credit, and the lectures are free to attend for New Haven and other local community members. His course will cover the findings of the Yale and Slavery Research Project and other related scholarly work. The lectures will be filmed and made available free online in 2025.
  • App-Guided Tour: A new app includes a map of key sites on campus and in New Haven with narration, offering users the opportunity to take a self-guided tour. The nineteen points of interest on the tour start with the John Pierpont House and end at Eli Whitney’s tomb in the Grove Street Cemetery.
  • Campus Tours: With a more accurate understanding of Yale’s history, we are updating campus tours so that they include the key findings from the Yale and Slavery Research Project, particularly concerning the Civil War Memorial and Connecticut Hall.

Working Together to Strengthen Our Community

Our commitments are ongoing, and there remains more to be accomplished in the years ahead. We have established the Committee on Addressing the Legacy of Slavery to seek broad input from faculty, students, staff, alumni, New Haven community members, and external experts and leaders on actions the university can take to address its history and legacy of slavery and create a stronger and more inclusive university community that pursues research, teaching, scholarship, practice, and preservation of the highest caliber. Secretary and Vice President for University Life Kimberly Goff-Crews will chair this committee.

We invite members of the Yale and New Haven communities to read the book and share with us their comments . The Committee on Addressing the Legacy of Slavery will review all input and consider future opportunities—with New Haven, other universities, and other communities—to improve access to education and enhance inclusive economic growth. The committee will report to the president. In the coming weeks, the committee will host listening sessions for faculty, students, staff, and alumni. The Committee for Art Recognizing Enslavement will also host forums for members of the community. These sessions will be posted on the Belonging at Yale calendar and the Yale and Slavery Research Project’s community input webpage . 

The Yale and Slavery Research Project has helped us gain a more complete understanding of our university’s history. The steps and initiatives Yale has established in response to the historical findings build on our continued commitments to the New Haven community and our ongoing Belonging at Yale work to enhance diversity, support equity, and promote an environment of welcome, inclusion, and respect.

Today, we mark one milestone in our journey to creating a stronger and more inclusive Yale and to confronting deeply rooted challenges in society to do our part in building “the beloved community” envisioned by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Our work continues, and we welcome your thoughts and hope you will engage with our history.

Peter Salovey, ’86 PhD President Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health, Management, and Sociology

Josh Bekenstein, ’80 BA Senior Trustee, Yale Corporation  

A once-ignored community of science sleuths now has the research community on its heels

research this assignment

A community of sleuths hunting for errors in scientific research have sent shockwaves through some of the most prestigious research institutions in the world — and the science community at large.

High-profile cases of alleged image manipulations in papers authored by the former president at Stanford University and leaders at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have made national media headlines, and some top science leaders think this could be just the start.

“At the rate things are going, we expect another one of these to come up every few weeks,” said Holden Thorp, the editor-in-chief of the Science family of scientific journals, whose namesake publication is one of the two most influential in the field. 

The sleuths argue their work is necessary to correct the scientific record and prevent generations of researchers from pursuing dead-end topics because of flawed papers. And some scientists say it’s time for universities and academic publishers to reform how they address flawed research. 

“I understand why the sleuths finding these things are so pissed off,” said Michael Eisen, a biologist, the former editor of the journal eLife and a prominent voice of reform in scientific publishing. “Everybody — the author, the journal, the institution, everybody — is incentivized to minimize the importance of these things.” 

For about a decade, science sleuths unearthed widespread problems in scientific images in published papers, publishing concerns online but receiving little attention. 

That began to change last summer after then-Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who is a neuroscientist, stepped down from his post after scrutiny of alleged image manipulations in studies he helped author and a report criticizing his laboratory culture. Tessier-Lavigne was not found to have engaged in misconduct himself, but members of his lab appeared to manipulate images in dubious ways, a report from a scientific panel hired to examine the allegations said. 

In January, a scathing post from a blogger exposed questionable work from top leaders at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute , which subsequently asked journals to retract six articles and issue corrections for dozens more. 

In a resignation statement , Tessier-Lavigne noted that the panel did not find that he knew of misconduct and that he never submitted papers he didn’t think were accurate. In a statement from its research integrity officer, Dana-Farber said it took decisive action to correct the scientific record and that image discrepancies were not necessarily evidence an author sought to deceive. 

“We’re certainly living through a moment — a public awareness — that really hit an inflection when the Marc Tessier-Lavigne matter happened and has continued steadily since then, with Dana-Farber being the latest,” Thorp said. 

Now, the long-standing problem is in the national spotlight, and new artificial intelligence tools are only making it easier to spot problems that range from decades-old errors and sloppy science to images enhanced unethically in photo-editing software.  

This heightened scrutiny is reshaping how some publishers are operating. And it’s pushing universities, journals and researchers to reckon with new technology, a potential backlog of undiscovered errors and how to be more transparent when problems are identified. 

This comes at a fraught time in academic halls. Bill Ackman, a venture capitalist, in a post on X last month discussed weaponizing artificial intelligence to identify plagiarism of leaders at top-flight universities where he has had ideological differences, raising questions about political motivations in plagiarism investigations. More broadly, public trust in scientists and science has declined steadily in recent years, according to the Pew Research Center .

Eisen said he didn’t think sleuths’ concerns over scientific images had veered into “McCarthyist” territory.

“I think they’ve been targeting a very specific type of problem in the literature, and they’re right — it’s bad,” Eisen said. 

Scientific publishing builds the base of what scientists understand about their disciplines, and it’s the primary way that researchers with new findings outline their work for colleagues. Before publication, scientific journals consider submissions and send them to outside researchers in the field for vetting and to spot errors or faulty reasoning, which is called peer review. Journal editors will review studies for plagiarism and for copy edits before they’re published. 

That system is not perfect and still relies on good-faith efforts by researchers to not manipulate their findings.

Over the past 15 years, scientists have grown increasingly concerned about problems that some researchers were digitally altering images in their papers to skew or emphasize results. Discovering irregularities in images — typically of experiments involving mice, gels or blots — has become a larger priority of scientific journals’ work.   

Jana Christopher, an expert on scientific images who works for the Federation of European Biochemical Societies and its journals, said the field of image integrity screening has grown rapidly since she began working in it about 15 years ago. 

At the time, “nobody was doing this and people were kind of in denial about research fraud,” Christopher said. “The common view was that it was very rare and every now and then you would find someone who fudged their results.” 

Today, scientific journals have entire teams dedicated to dealing with images and trying to ensure their accuracy. More papers are being retracted than ever — with a record 10,000-plus pulled last year, according to a Nature analysis . 

A loose group of scientific sleuths have added outside pressure. Sleuths often discover and flag errors or potential manipulations on the online forum PubPeer. Some sleuths receive little or no payment or public recognition for their work.

“To some extent, there is a vigilantism around it,” Eisen said. 

An analysis of comments on more than 24,000 articles posted on PubPeer found that more than 62% of comments on PubPeer were related to image manipulation. 

For years, sleuths relied on sharp eyes, keen pattern recognition and an understanding of photo manipulation tools. In the past few years, rapidly developing artificial intelligence tools, which can scan papers for irregularities, are supercharging their work. 

Now, scientific journals are adopting similar technology to try to prevent errors from reaching publication. In January, Science announced that it was using an artificial intelligence tool called Proofig to scan papers that were being edited and peer-reviewed for publication. 

Thorp, the Science editor-in-chief, said the family of six journals added the tool “quietly” into its workflow about six months before that January announcement. Before, the journal was reliant on eye-checks to catch these types of problems. 

Thorp said Proofig identified several papers late in the editorial process that were not published because of problematic images that were difficult to explain and other instances in which authors had “logical explanations” for issues they corrected before publication.

“The serious errors that cause us not to publish a paper are less than 1%,” Thorp said.

In a statement, Chris Graf, the research integrity director at the publishing company Springer Nature, said his company is developing and testing “in-house AI image integrity software” to check for image duplications. Graf’s research integrity unit currently uses Proofig to help assess articles if concerns are raised after publication. 

Graf said processes varied across its journals, but that some Springer Nature publications manually check images for manipulations with Adobe Photoshop tools and look for inconsistencies in raw data for experiments that visualize cell components or common scientific experiments.

“While the AI-based tools are helpful in speeding up and scaling up the investigations, we still consider the human element of all our investigations to be crucial,” Graf said, adding that image recognition software is not perfect and that human expertise is required to protect against false positives and negatives. 

No tool will catch every mistake or cheat. 

“There’s a lot of human beings in that process. We’re never going to catch everything,” Thorp said. “We need to get much better at managing this when it happens, as journals, institutions and authors.”

Many science sleuths had grown frustrated after their concerns seemed to be ignored or as investigations trickled along slowly and without a public resolution.  

Sholto David, who publicly exposed concerns about Dana-Farber research in a blog post, said he largely “gave up” on writing letters to journal editors about errors he discovered because their responses were so insufficient. 

Elisabeth Bik, a microbiologist and longtime image sleuth, said she has frequently flagged image problems and “nothing happens.” 

Leaving public comments questioning research figures on PubPeer can start a public conversation over questionable research, but authors and research institutions often don’t respond directly to the online critiques. 

While journals can issue corrections or retractions, it’s typically a research institution’s or a university’s responsibility to investigate cases. When cases involve biomedical research supported by federal funding, the federal Office of Research Integrity can investigate. 

Thorp said the institutions need to move more swiftly to take responsibility when errors are discovered and speak plainly and publicly about what happened to earn the public’s trust.  

“Universities are so slow at responding and so slow at running through their processes, and the longer that goes on, the more damage that goes on,” Thorp said. “We don’t know what happened if instead of launching this investigation Stanford said, ‘These papers are wrong. We’re going to retract them. It’s our responsibility. But for now, we’re taking the blame and owning up to this.’” 

Some scientists worry that image concerns are only scratching the surface of science’s integrity issues — problems in images are simply much easier to spot than data errors in spreadsheets. 

And while policing bad papers and seeking accountability is important, some scientists think those measures will be treating symptoms of the larger problem: a culture that rewards the careers of those who publish the most exciting results, rather than the ones that hold up over time. 

“The scientific culture itself does not say we care about being right; it says we care about getting splashy papers,” Eisen said. 

Evan Bush is a science reporter for NBC News. He can be reached at [email protected].

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Auburn center’s FHE reputation underscored with multiple winning additively manufactured electronics proposals

Published: Feb 19, 2024 10:30 AM

By Jeremy Henderson

If you're trying to gauge Auburn's preeminence in harsh environment electronics resiliency development and flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) research, look no further than the latest project call of the NextFlex National Manufacturing Institute.

In last year’s Project Call 7 competition, there were two winning Auburn proposals . In the current Project Call 8? Three, collectively funded at $2.5 million with 1:1 cost-share — all focused on additively manufactured (AM) FHE, all competitively won by teams led by Pradeep Lall, the MacFarlane Endowed Distinguished Professor and Alumni Professor of Mechanical Engineering and director of Auburn University’s Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics (CAVE3). Under Lall's 15-year leadership, CAVE3 has grown exponentially. In 2015, Lall led the Auburn team contributing to the winning proposal that resulted in the foundation of the NextFlex National Manufacturing Institute. Auburn is a tier-1 founding member of NextFlex, whose mission is to advance U.S. manufacturing of FHE; Lall serves on the NextFlex technical council and has previously served on the governing council of the institute.

The design of electronics for operation in harsh environments has long been an area of research for both Lall and CAVE3. While earning an international reputation for designing electronics for operation in harsh environments relative to automotive, military, defense, and downhole applications, CAVE3 also accelerated the growth of the flexible hybrid electronics industry itself. The topic of Lall's first winning Project Call 8 proposal is a perfect example. The $1 million Auburn-led project with 1:1 cost-share aims to use additive manufacturing in developing in-mold flexible electronics reliability for harsh automotive applications with parts and solutions suppliers including John Deere, Toyota Motors, BayFlex, and MacDermid Alpha as partners. “A large part of the weight of the automotive vehicle is in the form of wire harnesses," Lall said. "The harnesses carry signals from sensors, interfaces and modules to the control units located throughout the vehicles for the purpose of guidance, navigation and control. The wire harnesses alone may contribute almost 200 pounds to the weight of the passenger car. The transition to additive technologies for the replacement of wire harnesses with in-mold electronics will enable size reduction, weight reduction and, thus, reduction of the carbon footprint which has been a key metric for automotive design with increased emphasis on greater fuel efficiency." Once again, enter CAVE3. "Our center has a strong, established infrastructure for the additive fabrication of electronics using a number of methods," Lall said. "The current generation of electronics is largely planar.  However, greater integration of form and function can be achieved with additively manufactured flexible hybrid electronics through the manufacture of non-planar architectures. In terms of future potential applications of in-mold additive FHE, that's very exciting." Also exciting? Meeting the growing challenges of sustainability, a long-standing focus of Lall’s research across several technologies, including lead-free solders, low-temperature interconnects, and currently additively printed sustainable electronics — and the ultimate goal of Lall's second winning Project Call 8 project. Funded at $1 million with 1:1 cost-share, "Biodegradable Substrates Low-Temperature Cure Water-Based Inks Room Temperature Interconnects and Rework for Sustainable Electronics" partners Lall's Auburn-led team with industry partners TapeCon, BayFlex and NovaCentrix. "Conventional electronics uses plate-and-etch processes for manufacture," Lall said. "The waste streams may contain metals and dielectrics, in addition to other toxic chemicals. Additive manufacturing processes allow for the reduction in the amount of production waste, minimizing the impact on the environment. The earlier generation of additive methods still used volatile organic carrier fluids for the realization of manufactured circuits. The current generation of substrates is not biodegradable and thus contributes to the waste. In addition, the use of higher temperature processing requires high energy consumption for production processing."

In the third program, Lall's team of Auburn researchers will serve as a major subcontractor for Boeing. Titled "Additive Die Packaging for Cryogenic and High-Temperature Operations," the project is funded at a cost of $500,000, including 1:1 cost-share. “Electronics packaging has been identified as a critical technology for the continued progression through heterogeneous integration," Lall said. "A number of harsh environment applications often need a high mix and low volume of modules for specific applications. Traditional electronic packaging manufacturing techniques require expensive hard tooling that needs a high volume to allocate the upfront cost of installed infrastructure. The use of additive manufacturing methods allows accommodation for high-mix, low-volume designs and opens up new possibilities for launching new products that may not exist in the current state-of-the-art manufacturing methods." As for the application and broader impact of the program?

"Well, it aligns with the national emphasis of the packaging in the Chips Act with the establishment of the National Advanced Packaging Manufacturing Program (NAPMP)," Lall said. "There is a dearth of high-volume packaging manufacturing capabilities in the United States. Access to additive manufacturing processes for packaging solutions will allow the re-entrenchment of a critical portion of the electronics manufacturing supply chain onshore”.   Lall expects the three programs to also benefit CAVE3's leading work toward developing FHE reliability standards. “We are honored and excited," he said, "to have an opportunity to work on these forward-looking programs that will be impactful on the future of electronics manufacturing."

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  • What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples

What Is a Research Design | Types, Guide & Examples

Published on June 7, 2021 by Shona McCombes . Revised on November 20, 2023 by Pritha Bhandari.

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question  using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about:

  • Your overall research objectives and approach
  • Whether you’ll rely on primary research or secondary research
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods
  • The procedures you’ll follow to collect data
  • Your data analysis methods

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research objectives and that you use the right kind of analysis for your data.

Table of contents

Step 1: consider your aims and approach, step 2: choose a type of research design, step 3: identify your population and sampling method, step 4: choose your data collection methods, step 5: plan your data collection procedures, step 6: decide on your data analysis strategies, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about research design.

  • Introduction

Before you can start designing your research, you should already have a clear idea of the research question you want to investigate.

There are many different ways you could go about answering this question. Your research design choices should be driven by your aims and priorities—start by thinking carefully about what you want to achieve.

The first choice you need to make is whether you’ll take a qualitative or quantitative approach.

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible and inductive , allowing you to adjust your approach based on what you find throughout the research process.

Quantitative research designs tend to be more fixed and deductive , with variables and hypotheses clearly defined in advance of data collection.

It’s also possible to use a mixed-methods design that integrates aspects of both approaches. By combining qualitative and quantitative insights, you can gain a more complete picture of the problem you’re studying and strengthen the credibility of your conclusions.

Practical and ethical considerations when designing research

As well as scientific considerations, you need to think practically when designing your research. If your research involves people or animals, you also need to consider research ethics .

  • How much time do you have to collect data and write up the research?
  • Will you be able to gain access to the data you need (e.g., by travelling to a specific location or contacting specific people)?
  • Do you have the necessary research skills (e.g., statistical analysis or interview techniques)?
  • Will you need ethical approval ?

At each stage of the research design process, make sure that your choices are practically feasible.

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Within both qualitative and quantitative approaches, there are several types of research design to choose from. Each type provides a framework for the overall shape of your research.

Types of quantitative research designs

Quantitative designs can be split into four main types.

  • Experimental and   quasi-experimental designs allow you to test cause-and-effect relationships
  • Descriptive and correlational designs allow you to measure variables and describe relationships between them.

With descriptive and correlational designs, you can get a clear picture of characteristics, trends and relationships as they exist in the real world. However, you can’t draw conclusions about cause and effect (because correlation doesn’t imply causation ).

Experiments are the strongest way to test cause-and-effect relationships without the risk of other variables influencing the results. However, their controlled conditions may not always reflect how things work in the real world. They’re often also more difficult and expensive to implement.

Types of qualitative research designs

Qualitative designs are less strictly defined. This approach is about gaining a rich, detailed understanding of a specific context or phenomenon, and you can often be more creative and flexible in designing your research.

The table below shows some common types of qualitative design. They often have similar approaches in terms of data collection, but focus on different aspects when analyzing the data.

Your research design should clearly define who or what your research will focus on, and how you’ll go about choosing your participants or subjects.

In research, a population is the entire group that you want to draw conclusions about, while a sample is the smaller group of individuals you’ll actually collect data from.

Defining the population

A population can be made up of anything you want to study—plants, animals, organizations, texts, countries, etc. In the social sciences, it most often refers to a group of people.

For example, will you focus on people from a specific demographic, region or background? Are you interested in people with a certain job or medical condition, or users of a particular product?

The more precisely you define your population, the easier it will be to gather a representative sample.

  • Sampling methods

Even with a narrowly defined population, it’s rarely possible to collect data from every individual. Instead, you’ll collect data from a sample.

To select a sample, there are two main approaches: probability sampling and non-probability sampling . The sampling method you use affects how confidently you can generalize your results to the population as a whole.

Probability sampling is the most statistically valid option, but it’s often difficult to achieve unless you’re dealing with a very small and accessible population.

For practical reasons, many studies use non-probability sampling, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations and carefully consider potential biases. You should always make an effort to gather a sample that’s as representative as possible of the population.

Case selection in qualitative research

In some types of qualitative designs, sampling may not be relevant.

For example, in an ethnography or a case study , your aim is to deeply understand a specific context, not to generalize to a population. Instead of sampling, you may simply aim to collect as much data as possible about the context you are studying.

In these types of design, you still have to carefully consider your choice of case or community. You should have a clear rationale for why this particular case is suitable for answering your research question .

For example, you might choose a case study that reveals an unusual or neglected aspect of your research problem, or you might choose several very similar or very different cases in order to compare them.

Data collection methods are ways of directly measuring variables and gathering information. They allow you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.

You can choose just one data collection method, or use several methods in the same study.

Survey methods

Surveys allow you to collect data about opinions, behaviors, experiences, and characteristics by asking people directly. There are two main survey methods to choose from: questionnaires and interviews .

Observation methods

Observational studies allow you to collect data unobtrusively, observing characteristics, behaviors or social interactions without relying on self-reporting.

Observations may be conducted in real time, taking notes as you observe, or you might make audiovisual recordings for later analysis. They can be qualitative or quantitative.

Other methods of data collection

There are many other ways you might collect data depending on your field and topic.

If you’re not sure which methods will work best for your research design, try reading some papers in your field to see what kinds of data collection methods they used.

Secondary data

If you don’t have the time or resources to collect data from the population you’re interested in, you can also choose to use secondary data that other researchers already collected—for example, datasets from government surveys or previous studies on your topic.

With this raw data, you can do your own analysis to answer new research questions that weren’t addressed by the original study.

Using secondary data can expand the scope of your research, as you may be able to access much larger and more varied samples than you could collect yourself.

However, it also means you don’t have any control over which variables to measure or how to measure them, so the conclusions you can draw may be limited.

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As well as deciding on your methods, you need to plan exactly how you’ll use these methods to collect data that’s consistent, accurate, and unbiased.

Planning systematic procedures is especially important in quantitative research, where you need to precisely define your variables and ensure your measurements are high in reliability and validity.

Operationalization

Some variables, like height or age, are easily measured. But often you’ll be dealing with more abstract concepts, like satisfaction, anxiety, or competence. Operationalization means turning these fuzzy ideas into measurable indicators.

If you’re using observations , which events or actions will you count?

If you’re using surveys , which questions will you ask and what range of responses will be offered?

You may also choose to use or adapt existing materials designed to measure the concept you’re interested in—for example, questionnaires or inventories whose reliability and validity has already been established.

Reliability and validity

Reliability means your results can be consistently reproduced, while validity means that you’re actually measuring the concept you’re interested in.

For valid and reliable results, your measurement materials should be thoroughly researched and carefully designed. Plan your procedures to make sure you carry out the same steps in the same way for each participant.

If you’re developing a new questionnaire or other instrument to measure a specific concept, running a pilot study allows you to check its validity and reliability in advance.

Sampling procedures

As well as choosing an appropriate sampling method , you need a concrete plan for how you’ll actually contact and recruit your selected sample.

That means making decisions about things like:

  • How many participants do you need for an adequate sample size?
  • What inclusion and exclusion criteria will you use to identify eligible participants?
  • How will you contact your sample—by mail, online, by phone, or in person?

If you’re using a probability sampling method , it’s important that everyone who is randomly selected actually participates in the study. How will you ensure a high response rate?

If you’re using a non-probability method , how will you avoid research bias and ensure a representative sample?

Data management

It’s also important to create a data management plan for organizing and storing your data.

Will you need to transcribe interviews or perform data entry for observations? You should anonymize and safeguard any sensitive data, and make sure it’s backed up regularly.

Keeping your data well-organized will save time when it comes to analyzing it. It can also help other researchers validate and add to your findings (high replicability ).

On its own, raw data can’t answer your research question. The last step of designing your research is planning how you’ll analyze the data.

Quantitative data analysis

In quantitative research, you’ll most likely use some form of statistical analysis . With statistics, you can summarize your sample data, make estimates, and test hypotheses.

Using descriptive statistics , you can summarize your sample data in terms of:

  • The distribution of the data (e.g., the frequency of each score on a test)
  • The central tendency of the data (e.g., the mean to describe the average score)
  • The variability of the data (e.g., the standard deviation to describe how spread out the scores are)

The specific calculations you can do depend on the level of measurement of your variables.

Using inferential statistics , you can:

  • Make estimates about the population based on your sample data.
  • Test hypotheses about a relationship between variables.

Regression and correlation tests look for associations between two or more variables, while comparison tests (such as t tests and ANOVAs ) look for differences in the outcomes of different groups.

Your choice of statistical test depends on various aspects of your research design, including the types of variables you’re dealing with and the distribution of your data.

Qualitative data analysis

In qualitative research, your data will usually be very dense with information and ideas. Instead of summing it up in numbers, you’ll need to comb through the data in detail, interpret its meanings, identify patterns, and extract the parts that are most relevant to your research question.

Two of the most common approaches to doing this are thematic analysis and discourse analysis .

There are many other ways of analyzing qualitative data depending on the aims of your research. To get a sense of potential approaches, try reading some qualitative research papers in your field.

If you want to know more about the research process , methodology , research bias , or statistics , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Simple random sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Cluster sampling
  • Likert scales
  • Reproducibility

 Statistics

  • Null hypothesis
  • Statistical power
  • Probability distribution
  • Effect size
  • Poisson distribution

Research bias

  • Optimism bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Implicit bias
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Anchoring bias
  • Explicit bias

A research design is a strategy for answering your   research question . It defines your overall approach and determines how you will collect and analyze data.

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.

Quantitative research designs can be divided into two main categories:

  • Correlational and descriptive designs are used to investigate characteristics, averages, trends, and associations between variables.
  • Experimental and quasi-experimental designs are used to test causal relationships .

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible. Common types of qualitative design include case study , ethnography , and grounded theory designs.

The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:

  • Your research questions and/or hypotheses
  • Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
  • The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
  • Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests  or thematic analysis )

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population . Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research. For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

In statistics, sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population.

Operationalization means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioral avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalize the variables that you want to measure.

A research project is an academic, scientific, or professional undertaking to answer a research question . Research projects can take many forms, such as qualitative or quantitative , descriptive , longitudinal , experimental , or correlational . What kind of research approach you choose will depend on your topic.

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Twin Bell's turtles hatch during research project to repopulate the species in the NSW New England region

When scientists discovered seven baby Bell's turtles in a batch of six eggs they had incubated they were initially stumped.

University of New England PhD candidate Louise Streeting said she was sure there was a clerical error, but couldn't have been happier to be proved otherwise.

'When we investigated more closely we realised two babies had come out of the same egg — they're half the size of their siblings," she said.

Two small bell's turtles sit on a hand, they are a dark green and no bigger than a 50c coin.

The twins form part of a repopulation project that is boosting numbers of the endangered Bell's turtles in NSW Northern Tablelands.

It has put close to 3,000 Bell's turtles put back into the local ecosystem.

But twins have never been produced during the project, and with very little literature available, Ms Streeting said new ground has been broken.

Two smaller bells turtles are held next to a bigger one

"There has been no research into twins in Bell's turtles, there has been very little research into twins across turtles in general," she said.

"It's 1-in-3000 eggs, which is very rare — at least for us." 

"Twins do occur across other species of turtles, for example the alligator snapping turtle [has] three sets of twins per 1,000 eggs."

Two small turtles are laid next to their egg

During their time in the lab, the Bell's turtles are assessed, with their measurements and weights recorded, before they are released into waterways on a private property on the Severn River at Glen Innes.

"The twins are half the size of their siblings, but they are doing really well — hopefully they will catch up with their siblings as time goes by," Ms Streeting said.

Twin turtle white table 2

Future of the program

Last year, researchers released 1,500 Bell's turtles into the Northern Tablelands, but the team had to take a more conservative approach for this year's release.

The Gwydir and Namoi river systems were a particular focus last season and were "plentiful" with adult female Bell's turtles to be induced to lay eggs.

Turtle enclosure

However, the focus is now at Glen Innes Severn, where there are fewer adult turtles to induce.

"Unfortunately, this means we can't harvest as many eggs, but obviously makes it extremely important for this water system," Ms Streeting said.

A researcher stands over dozens of tubs with baby Bell's turtles in them.

High rates of predation on nests by wildlife make the program integral to the population of endangered Bell's turtles.

"The turtles are endangered because foxes are raiding more than 97 per cent of turtle nests each year," Ms Streeting said.

"In particular, the population in the Severn and other waterways."

With her PhD graduation just around the corner, Ms Streeting is hopeful the program can continue to grow.

Turtle fox proofing

  • X (formerly Twitter)

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Bell's Turtle

  • Endangered and Protected Species

IMAGES

  1. Research Paper Assignment

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  2. Research (Assignment/Report) Template

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  3. 10 Parts Of A Common Research Paper

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  4. Research Paper Assignment Freshman English Research Assignment, Spring

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  5. Business Research Assignment Sample Online

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  6. Essay Writing Assignment

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COMMENTS

  1. The Research Assignment: Introduction

    The Research Assignment Introduction When tasked with writing a research paper, you are able to "dig in" to a topic, idea, theme, or question in greater detail. In your academic career, you will be assigned several assignments that require you to "research" something and then write about it.

  2. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Published on October 12, 2022 by Shona McCombes and Tegan George. Revised on November 21, 2023. A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it's important, and how you will conduct your research. The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals will contain at least these elements: Title page

  3. How to Write a Research Paper

    A research paper is a piece of academic writing that provides analysis, interpretation, and argument based on in-depth independent research. Research papers are similar to academic essays, but they are usually longer and more detailed assignments, designed to assess not only your writing skills but also your skills in scholarly research.

  4. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

    Analyzing and synthesizing a scholarly journal article is intended to help students obtain the reading and critical thinking skills needed to develop and write their own research papers. This assignment also supports workplace skills where you could be asked to summarize a report or other type of document and report it, for example, during a ...

  5. A Beginner's Guide to Starting the Research Process

    Step 1: Choose your topic Step 2: Identify a problem Step 3: Formulate research questions Step 4: Create a research design Step 5: Write a research proposal Other interesting articles Step 1: Choose your topic First you have to come up with some ideas. Your thesis or dissertation topic can start out very broad.

  6. Sample Assignments

    Designing Effective Research Assignments: Sample Assignments Learn about best practices in research assignment design, student research habits, and how the Library can help. Home Student Research Habits How the Library Can Help Sample Assignments Assignments from LCC Faculty Assignment Ideas Assignment ideas from faculty survey and interviews.

  7. Research Guides: Research Assignment Design: Overview

    Students experience a greater cognitive load when researching because they lack domain knowledge. You can help students focus their energies by ensuring your assignment matches your priorities. For example, to prioritize synthesizing arguments, design an assignment around reading and writing with sources, and limit the need for finding sources ...

  8. Introduction

    Your Research Assignment Your Assignment is Where it All Starts Understanding your assignment is key. You should read your assignment as soon as you get it just so you have time to ask your instructor about anything that you're not sure of.

  9. Understanding Research Assignments

    Understanding Research Assignments. Before you begin researching and writing, you should spend some time understanding your assignment and preparing your process and workflows. To make the most productive use of your time, you'll need to know what you're trying to accomplish and have a consistent process for gathering information, reading, and ...

  10. Research Basics: Understanding the Assignment

    This will help you determine when you need to start finding sources, reading and analyzing them, and developing your paper or project. Some assignments have different parts due at different times, so check all the due dates. To help you manage your time, you may wish to use the Benedictine Library Research Project Calculator ; Length of the ...

  11. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

    Failure to delimit the contextual scope of your research [e.g., time, place, people, etc.]. As with any research paper, your proposed study must inform the reader how and in what ways the study will frame the problem. Failure to develop a coherent and persuasive argument for the proposed research. This is critical.

  12. Research Assignment Ideas

    Research Assignment Ideas Research Paper Based on Chapter 7 and the Appendices in this book: D'Angelo, B. J., Jamieson, S., Maid, B. M., & Walker, J. R. (Eds.). (2017). Information literacy: Research and collaboration across disciplines. The WAC Clearinghouse ; University Press of Colorado.

  13. Assignment Ideas

    the working thesis, and key sources and how they inform the research. Topic Exploration with Online Forums Online platforms like Twitter, blogs, and other online networks can be good springboards for exploring how a topic has been discussed in a certain discipline or community. Possible activities include:

  14. Literature Review Assignment

    Purpose. This assignment will help you become aware of how writers and researchers consider previous work on a topic before they begin additional research. Locate a variety of scholarly print and digital sources that represent multiple perspectives on a topic. Analyze sources by critically reading, annotating, engaging, comparing, and drawing ...

  15. Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Assignments

    If the assignment asks you to conduct research to further support your assessment of the problems, include this in your explanation. Remember to cite those sources in a list of references. Use specific evidence from the case and apply appropriate concepts, theories, and models discussed in class or in relevant course readings to highlight and ...

  16. Understanding Assignments

    The first step in any successful college writing venture is reading the assignment. While this sounds like a simple task, it can be a tough one. This handout will help you unravel your assignment and begin to craft an effective response.

  17. PDF APA Style Research Article Activity

    Research Article Activity This activity helps students find, cite, analyze, and summarize a scholarly research article. For each step of the activity, type your responses directly into the text fields provided, or copy the questions into your preferred word-processing program and answer them there.

  18. Sample Assignments

    This assignment addresses students' research and critical analysis skills. 4. Examine Bias. Raises awareness of media bias and employs database research skills. Students locate and cite one article from a conservative publication, and another on the same topic from a liberal publication. Students then compare, contrast and evaluate the two ...

  19. Research Proposal Assignment

    Research Proposal Assignment. Note to instructors: This research proposal assignment may be used as part of an ongoing research project, or it may be used as a stand-alone project. Because these guidelines are intentionally vague, instructors may want to edit/add details to the "Task" section. You are encouraged to adopt, adapt, or remix these ...

  20. Building A Research Design Assignment

    Sadasivam, N., & Ray, A. (2021). How to choose and interpret a statistical test? An update for budding researchers. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 10 (8), 2763-2767. doi/10.4103/jmpc.jfmpc_433_ Building a Research Design Assigmnet Topic Selection Find a Gap Assignment Sylvia Simon Topic Selection Final Topic Selection Assignment

  21. How to Find Sources

    Research databases. You can search for scholarly sources online using databases and search engines like Google Scholar. These provide a range of search functions that can help you to find the most relevant sources. If you are searching for a specific article or book, include the title or the author's name. Alternatively, if you're just ...

  22. Addressing Yale's history of slavery

    Learn about the project and its findings at the Yale and Slavery Research Project website. Campus & Community. Media Contact. Karen N. Peart: [email protected], 203-432-1345. In a Feb. 16 event, Yale and New Haven leaders discussed findings of the Yale and Slavery Research Project — and the path to building a stronger community.

  23. 99 million people included in largest global vaccine safety study

    About the Global Data Vaccine Network. Established in 2019 and with data sourced from millions of individuals across six continents, the GVDN collaborates with renowned research institutions, policy makers, and vaccine related organisations to establish a harmonised and evidence-based approach to vaccine safety and effectiveness.

  24. Biology student's research project examines toxins, breast milk and

    Domingos will present her research April 17 at the Br. Joseph W. Stander Symposium. The project began in June 2023 through the College of Arts and Sciences Dean's Summer Fellowship program, which provides opportunities for students to work with a faculty mentor on an original research project.

  25. University Statement

    The Research Project included faculty, staff, students, and New Haven community members, and it was led by David W. Blight, Sterling Professor of History and director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale. Members of the group shared their results publicly as they did their work, and the ...

  26. A once-ignored community of science sleuths now has the research

    Feb. 14, 2024, 12:00 PM PST. By Evan Bush. A community of sleuths hunting for errors in scientific research have sent shockwaves through some of the most prestigious research institutions in the ...

  27. Auburn center's FHE reputation underscored with multiple winning

    The topic of Lall's first winning Project Call 8 proposal is a perfect example. The $1 million Auburn-led project with 1:1 cost-share aims to use additive manufacturing in developing in-mold flexible electronics reliability for harsh automotive applications with parts and solutions suppliers including John Deere, Toyota Motors, BayFlex, and ...

  28. What Is a Research Design

    A research design is a strategy for answering your research question using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about: Your overall research objectives and approach. Whether you'll rely on primary research or secondary research. Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects. Your data collection methods.

  29. Twin Bell's turtles hatch during research project to repopulate the

    The twins form part of a repopulation project that is boosting numbers of the endangered Bell's turtles in NSW Northern Tablelands. It has put close to 3,000 Bell's turtles put back into the local ...