Blog Post

Tired of Assigning Term Papers (Your Students Are Too): Here Are Some Alternatives

Over on Facebook, a friend said he was tired of assigning term papers and asked for alternatives.  I put together a quick compilation of HASTAC blogs and resources on alternatives.  I will reblog that here for anyone else faced with the dismal prospect of assigning a term paper that your students (the majority, not all) will write the night before and that you (the majority, not all) will grade the night before grades are due--and that don't result in real learning for anyone (the majority not all).


[NB:  For anyone looking to get started on transforming a traditional classroom into an engaged, activist, student-centered learning space, see the six-part series, "How Do I Get Started?" that covers everything from students creating their own syllabi to writing a class constitution or mission statement to alternatives to grading, term papers, and other traditional classroom practices: )



[Paraphrased for privacy]:  "I'm at loss on college-lefel assignments.  I came up in the era of term paper writing, but increasingly I feel as though that's antiquated. Maybe it isn't—who knows? In any case, ideas welcome for interesting alternatives to term papers, especially for a classes on communication, technology and society.



(1)  Here's a complicated and wonderful way, but very ambitious, having your students write new or revise weak Wikipedia entries.  (This blog post has had nearly 5000 unique visitors; it's a brilliant politically engaged way to turn a term paper into a public good):

How to Go from Standard-Issue Term Paper to Social Change: Here's One Way…


(2) An easier way is for you to create a "Group" on is free and we are entirely nonprofit and will never abuse your data--and have them post very polished (I have them help revise and proofread on Google Docs first) pieces of PERSUASIVE writing that applies the themes and theories to a real-world issue. In a HASTAC group, you can make any setting "Public" or "private." If public, and if you let me know, I'll be happy to tweet out the url to your student's blog to our 14+K network members. The difference is writing for an audience, not writing for you. The research and writing by Stanford's Andrea Lunsford is wonderful on this.

(3) A Still easier one  "Blogs, Term Papers, and Effective Pedagogy"
Blogs, Term Papers, and Effective Pedagogy

This entry has been cross posted from Etene Sacca-vajjena. In it, I give my take on "Blogs vs. Term Papers" from the perspective of a community college professor. I cite Cathy N. Davidson and Eric Marshall, both of whom are associated with HASTAC as well as work previously published in HASTAC.


(4) And dozens of great pedagogical assignments designed by the HASTAC Scholars, The Pedagogy Project:


Okay, that should be plenty to get anyone started!



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