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Student Digital Research Projects

This guide provides an overview of how to design digital research projects to enhance teaching and learning at American University.

What are Digital Research Projects?

The AU Library’s definition of digital research is “the application of modern digital technologies to advance or supplement the traditional process of scholarly exploration, discovery, and sharing.” A digital research project uses one or many digital technologies to advance research and analysis beyond text-based scholarship and print traditions. Digital research projects expand traditional scholarly activities by using modern methods, modes, and formats, which change how the ultimate final product is created, presented, and preserved.

This guide provides information for faculty who wish to introduce digital research projects into their classrooms. If you want to learn more about digital research or start a digital project for your students, please contact us at

Why Integrate Digital Tools and Methods into your Classroom?

Digital research projects involve students in new forms of research and inquiry by encouraging them to conceptualize, produce, and communicate their scholarship in dynamic new ways. Digital projects expand opportunities for students to individualize their learning by matching coursework with personal interests and skills while working in non-traditional format. These projects can also add chances for experiential learning through real-world projects that extend both students’ creativity and learning.

Assigning digital projects to complement or replace traditional written assignments provides students with the opportunity to develop new skills and literacies. Students will develop valuable digital literacies that include:

  • Computer Literacy: The ability to understand and use computers and computer systems
  • Information Literacy: The ability to access, understand, evaluate, and use digitally-acquired information
  • Multimedia Literacy: The ability to create new information using digital resources (such as images, audio, or video)
  • Visual Literacy: The ability to understand visual representations and communicate effectively through images and designs
  • Interactive Literacy: The ability to communicate through various forms in online environments  

We need to prepare our graduates to work, communicate, and create in new ways with digital informational content and products. They need to develop new literacies and be comfortable creating knowledge in all the multifaceted ways in which we communicate today. Digital research projects can help students become responsible digital citizens who can responsibly contribute to digital information.

Introductory Reading about Student Digital Research Projects

Digital Pedagogy in the Humanities: Concepts, Models, and Experiments is a peer-reviewed collection of instructional resources for digital research. This curated collection of reusable resources can help you come up with ideas or get started with digital methods and technologies in the classroom.

What's Wrong with Writing Essays: A Conversation by Mark Sample and Kelly Schrum (2013) provides examples of why you might want to consider using digital research projects as part of your course assessments.

Digital Literacy and the Undergraduate Curriculum by Jeff McClurken, Jeremy Boggs, Adrianne Wadewitz, Anne Ellen Geller, Jon Beasley-Murray (2013) presents arguments for using digital research projects and their impact on digital literacy for undergraduates.

Digital Storytelling: A Meaningful Technology-Integrated  Approach for Engaged Student Learning by Alaa Sadik (2008) is a journal article that reviews the benefits of integrating technology into the curriculum. The article follows a student digital storytelling project and benefits to student engagement and understanding of curricular content were noted. - Access requires logging in with an AU email address.