Term Projects

Term projects anchor a course as the culminating activity. Other course tasks can be devised in relation or response to it. Like all assignments, term projects are tied to course goals. In choosing the type of term project for your course, you might find these questions helpful:

  • What do I want students to accomplish in terms of the larger course goals?
  • What sorts of projects will contribute to students' academic growth?
  • What sorts of projects are consistent with the work in my field?
  • What research resources are available for students to complete the project?
  • What type of project do I have the time for and the interest in evaluating?

Project Types

Component Project. Begin with a series of microthemes, an annotated bibliography, or a journal. Students can later add an introduction, concluding essay, or professional statement turning the earlier work into a semester project. With a table of contents and appropriate binding, the student will have a valuable finished product that has been produced throughout the semester with a synthesizing activity at the end.

Collaborative Project. Use to explode the traditional hierarchy in the classroom, to focus class discussion, and to encourage individual participation and leadership roles among students.

Research Projects. Give students the opportunity to think seriously about an issue. By building on the research of others, they contribute their own insights on a particular question of interest to them.

Portfolios. Create a job-search booster for students in professional programs, especially if organized with a table of contents and a student statement.

Poster Presentation. Challenge students to grapple with material and present it in the confined space of a poster accurately, clearly, and attractively.

Scaffolded Writing

Segment term projects so that students can have clear guideposts to keep them on track, and you have checkpoints to intervene when students go off task:

  • Statement of purpose or a prospectus submitted early in the course
  • Working thesis statement or hypothesis
  • Annotated bibliography submitted during library research
  • Preliminary outline
  • (Rough) draft
  • Oral presentation or a poster presentation of work in progress

Working on major projects enables student engagement and exploration. Students may have limited practice writing on a large scale, difficulty managing information, and communicating their thoughts clearly.

  • Design assignments that explain how the project meets course goals and is appropriate to the field of study.
  • Anticipate library research skills students will need and enlist the aid of your subject librarian
  • Communicate your expectations explicitly. Because students may write for several disciplines in a single semester, remind them what a "good" paper looks like in your field. Should the paper have a cover sheet? Headings? Supplemental material in an appendix?
  • Explain how to avoid plagiarism, which is often the result of students not knowing how to manage information according to the standards of your field. What needs to be cited in a typical paper in your field of study? How extensively are quotations used? What is your preferred citation method? Where can the students find examples of it?
  • Provide heuristics that will help students revise their document systematically.
Revised 06/2012

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