Scaffolding Research Assignments

Research papers can be a great way to assess the learning of many course outcomes, and by breaking the assignment down into weekly tasks, you can set students up for success! Here is a sample schedule of assignments for a research paper based on Carol Kuhlthau’s Guided Inquiry Design Framework:

  1. Week One: Task Initiation – Student reviews the assignment and the stages of development and research. Introduce the research project by laying out the stages of the research process and by suggesting the types of resources students should use at the different stages.
  2. Week One or Two: Topic Selection – Students develop a general overview of the subject area to identify topics of interest.
    • Research materials: Continue working with the general references within the Champlain Library Subject Guides
    • Assignment: Have students post their topic in a discussion forum or have them submit their topic as an assignment for review.
  3. Week Two or Three: Prefocus Exploration – Student should be reading general information about the topic to be able to start formulating a thesis.
  4. Week Three or Four: Focus Formulation – Student should be integrating their research into a workable focus or thesis.
    • Research materials: Same as in Prefocus Exploration
    • Assignment: Have students submit their thesis statement or research question.
  5. Week Four or Five: Information Collection – Student should be diving deep into the research using more complex resources and targeting searching.
  6. Weeks Five or Six – Seven or Eight: Presentation – Students integrate their research into the assignment.
    • Research materials: All previous materials
    • Assignment: Have students submit a first and final draft. Considering adding in a peer-review option for students to access if interested.
  7. Week Seven or Eight: Assessment – have the student look back and reflect on the research process
    • Assignment: Have students respond to the following self-reflection questions: What is the most important thing you learned from the project? What was the most enjoyable aspect of the project? What was the hardest part of the project? What do you wish you had spent more time on? What do you wish you knew at the beginning that would have made this research project easier?
Guided Inquiry Framework


Kuhlthau, C. C. (2009). Information Search Process.