ResearchThe first major learning objective of the QEP is improving information literacy, or research. UMW’s FSEMs are designed to meet this goal by teaching students how to utilize a variety of research techniques to retrieve information efficiently, evaluate retrieved information, and synthesize information effectively to support their messages or arguments.

The University Libraries is the main academic center that engages and assists students in developing effective research skills.


Library Services

The library offers several resources to FSEM instructors to help them introduce first-year students to library research:

  • A librarian can do a presentation for your class. You can bring your class to the library classroom, or the librarian can come to you. Your students will learn how to find books and articles, how to follow citations, and how to create bibliographies. A typical library presentation includes several hands-on activities so that students can practice doing research.
  • The librarians can create an online guide to library resources, tailored to your course and your research project(s).
  • The library offers a generic Library Orientation tutorial, with a short quiz at the end. You can view this tutorial at If you like, you can assign the tutorial to your students, and the library will report the quiz results to you.

For more information contact Peter Catlin at or x. 2438.

Research in FSEMs

Instructors—Do you need an idea for a research project? Are you simply curious about what other professors have done in their seminars for this component of the QEP? Here you will find a select list of research projects employed in FSEMs.

FSEM 100H4: Feminism from the Second Wave until the PresentSemester Project

  • Annotated Paper Outline: “In order to help you organize your research, identify areas that need further research, and prepare for the integrated approached required for a good literature review (described below), you will write an annotated outline of your paper. The focus of this assignment is to develop an integrative and thematic approach to answering your guiding question by reviewing relevant research. Figure out what subtopics you will address using which references and list these in the appropriate places. Please note that references can and should be used in more than one place. A minimum of 6 references should be included with this outline. Use parenthetical citation using APA format for each article. At the end of the outline you will provide an APA style reference list with each of the articles appropriately cited.”
  • Research Paper (Draft and Final Version): “You will write an 7-8 page literature review style research paper. This is an opportunity for you to read primary source material on an area of your own interest and to learn about current research that may not be covered in class. You must cite at least 6 peer-reviewed journal articles. These articles should largely be from the last five years (see me for exceptions to this) so that you learn about recent research in the field. The paper should be written in APA format and needs to include a title page, running head, and APA style references.”

HIST 201: Many Lives of the Russian Revolution (European History First-Year Seminar)Research Paper

  • Primary Source Collection: “You will research, organize, and report on a collection of primary sources that can be used to explore the experiences and perspectives of individuals, social groups, or institutions in the Russian Revolution. Your report will be 3-4 pages and will include a bibliography of the primary sources. Your report will be distributed to the class for discussion. You will give a 5-minute presentation in class on the primary source collection.”
  • Final Paper: “You will write a 7-8 page paper on the Russian Revolution using the primary sources you have used. Your final paper will be distributed to the class for discussion. You will give a 10-minute presentation in class on your final paper.”

FSEM 100C5: Lost and Forgotten Manuscripts of Christianity — Research Paper

  • Final Paper: “Your major paper assignment involves writing a research paper on a [non-canonical] text of your choice that is relevant to the class and cleared with me. The final paper must be type-written, double spaced, and 8-12 pages in length, including notes. The Religion Program requires the Chicago Manual of Style format. I will expect you to use it for your footnotes. You can find information on it on the Simpson Library webpage or through the Writing Center. . . . This paper requires library research, which you will be introduced to this semester. Internet sources, other than those that are simply digital versions of printed texts, must be used with caution and sparingly.”
  • Assignments Leading up to Final Paper: Text selection and initial bibliography, annotated bibliography, and rough draft

FSEM 100G1: Consumer ChemistryResearch Assignments

  • Jekyll and Hyde Chemicals: “The third paper will examine the fine line between medicine and poison through the investigation of so-called ‘Jekyll and Hyde Chemicals.’ Research for this paper will incorporate the primary literature and internet sources.”
  • Consumer Product Chemistry: “The fourth assignment will be an analysis of the ingredient list of a consumer product. Sources will be used to determine the chemistry of how the active ingredients work and why each component is included.”
  • Group Project: “You will work in teams to do a thorough examination of a consumer product, or possibly a comparison of a group of products. Using our examination of products throughout the semester as a guide, your team will be responsible for leading either a whole class period or a portion of the class period. This may include discussions, writing assignments, showing of media clips, bringing in outside sources, lecture in powerpoint, experiments, etc. An annotated bibliography for the proposed sources for your class presentation will be due prior to your presentation date.”

FSEM 100F7: Octavia Butler Science FictionClass Journal

  • Journal Entries: “For this course, you will be required to keep a journal. Thus, for each text of the course (8 entries for the novels, 1 for your short story, and 1 of your own choosing), you are required to compose a one (285 words) page critical analysis, using an outside academic source to support the argumentative claim of your thesis. Also, you must compose 1 critical analysis (worth one point) that discusses a topic that you have become interested in over the course of the semester.”

FSEM 100B8: Ethics and Literature — Research Paper

  • Research Paper: “For this assignment, which will culminate in a paper of 8-10 pages, you will gain familiarity with the methods of appropriate scholarly research, a task in which we will be aided by UMW’s Humanities Librarian/Superhero Jack Bales; the paper will require at least four sophisticated sources.  The purpose of this research is (at least) two-fold: to add depth, richness, and possibly accuracy to your discussion by drawing in professional voices, and to give you practice then entering into conversation with those voices, since your charge here is not to report others’ ideas but rather to advance your own ideas in the midst of an ongoing dialogue.”
  • Assignments Leading up to Final Paper: Annotated bibliography (at least 3 sources), semi-formal proposal, submission of 2 drafts for peer and instructor feedback, and oral presentation of topic

FSEM 100D: The Mathematics of ChaosFinal Project

  • Final Course Project: “The final project is due at the end of the semester with a presentation during the last week of classes, which will focus on a topic of your choice. Your project topic should fit into one of these three categories: a formal research project on some historical topic or scientific field relevant to chaos theory, with a heavy emphasis on primary sources; a study of a specific application of dynamical systems; a computer exercise with an emphasis on programming and graphics.”

FSEM 100H3: Representing the Holocaust in German and American Culture — Research Paper

  • Final Research Paper: “Your final paper (8-10 pages long) will demand that you examine a specific question about the Holocaust and that you utilize primary research. You might, for instance, investigate the controversy regarding Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust. Or one might examine the issues involved in the restitution of stolen art work to Jewish victims and their families.”

HIST 202: Good, Bad, and Ugly American Tourists (American History First-Year Seminar) — Research Project

  • Research Paper: “Each student will be required to complete a multistage research project on an American tourist site. Students must submit a one-page proposal by Week 2 outlining the chosen site and interpretive framework, and then must attend office hours during the subsequent two weeks to discuss their topic. Students will then submit a 6-8 page research paper on their topic, due during Week 6, in class.”
  • Presentation of Research: “Each student will be required to make a seven to eight minute presentation to the class on their research, taking into account the feedback they receive from the professor. Presentations will be held on four non-consecutive Fridays during the second half of the class. A revised version of the paper that takes into account peer feedback from the presentation must be turned in after the presentation.”

FSEM 100ZZ / HONR 100B: Mad Scientists, Bad Scientists, and Evil GeniusesCourse Project

  • Course Project: “One of the goals of this course is to assess the ethical ‘rules’ governing scientific investigations and what makes science ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Using the case studies we have examined as a guide, select other case studies from the news, literature or the cinema to present to the class (using the medium that you feel best delivers your message) that describes the issues involved—both scientific and ethical, political, religious, or social (even potentially personal) pressures or stimuli, the way in which the scientist deals with all of these factors, and your assessment of the ‘mad,’ ‘bad,’ or ‘evil.'”

HIST 201: The Crusades (European History First-Year Seminar) — Research Paper

  • Final Research Paper: “The late twelfth century saw a reversal of fortunes in the Middle East.  On the Muslim side, the rise of Saladin enabled to reconquest of Jerusalem and almost all of the Christian cities and principalities of the region.  On the Christian side, the third crusade brought together western Europe’s three most powerful kings—Richard I of England, Philippe Augustus of France, and Frederick Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire—in a massive counter-attack.  These events produced a flurry of historical works from both sides, which puts us in position to understand the actions and ideals of this period better than any other during the era of the crusades.      Your question is relatively complex—given that you are only writing a 7 to 9-page paper.  Compare notions of war, truce, and coexistence in the Middle East in the second half of the twelfth century.  All three of these things are interconnected and many-layered.  War, for instance, can be holy war or jihad (which may be something different than Christian holy war), and it might also be a form of political negotiation, revenge, or extension of power.  How the enemy is treated and viewed is important here.  Understanding the norms of combat is also important.  A similar complexity surrounds truce (temporary cessation of hostilities) and coexistence (the idea that Christians and Muslims can live together without automatic warfare).I expect you to utilize the following sources as your principle evidence: An Arab-Syrian Gentleman and Warrior in the Period of the Crusades: Memoirs of Usamah ibn-Munqidh, Baha’ al-Din ibn Shaddad’s The Rare and Excellent History of Saladin, The Conquest of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade: Sources in Translation, and The Chronicle of the Third Crusade: The Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi.  You may also use any of the other assigned sources to supplement these if appropriate.In addition you will be expected to locate and evaluate some modern work on the issues.  There will be a few relevant articles posted on Blackboard.  I will also offer assistance in locating further articles and monographs through Simpson Library resources (see handout).The paper will be 7 to 9 pages long and footnoted in proper form (I will hand out a sheet showing how this is done).”

FSEM 100EE: Famous Scientific DiscoveriesVarious Assignments

  • Synopses: “The synopses should relate material from a current article(s) to any of the seminal papers discussed in class for a given section. The paper should be structured such that you introduce the general topic, discuss the current article (its theme, what was done, and its relevance), and then discuss how this article stems intellectually from one of the seminal papers discussed in class.”
  • Book Report: “The book report should relate material from a book to any of the seminal papers discussed in class for a given section. The report should be structured such that you introduce the general theme of the book, include a summary of the body of the book; discuss how the book is intellectually related to the seminal work talked about in class, and finish with your conclusions on how the works fits within the body of knowledge in biology and in its particular realm of biology, as well as its impact on society.”

Learning Modules for Research

  • The CRAAP Test — The CRAAP module helps teach students how to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate sources for their research by assessing five categories: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.
  • Deconstructing Citations — This module teaches students how to use the information found in citations to find the sources for their own research.
  • Finding a Topic — This module walks students through the process of finding a topic for their research papers.