Course-Based Research

What is Course-Based Research?

Course-based research is a pedagogical tool where student use concepts taught in the course to form hypotheses, gather data, analyze data, and come to conclusions that are scientifically valid. Often, the data can be pooled and used to create an overall class project, and in some cases, this can lead to published research.

Why should I incorporate research into my course?

Course-based research is a means by which students can be introduced to the scientific method and the basics of data manipulation. Depending on the assignments you choose to construct, they will develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, teamwork, and initiative. They may also develop interest in the research topic, and gain insight into future career opportunities.

What resources are available to students?

The York University Libraries have many resources to help students conduct their initial literature review, and find the appropriate information to conduct research. Aside from the librarians who are available to assist students, the libraries also run a number of student workshops to help develop research skills. These workshops can be requested and tailored for your course specifically by contacting the libraries and requesting the workshop. All of the relevant information is online at

Ethics in course-based research

If students are collecting or manipulating data for the purposes of education, that is, if the goal of the students is to gain training and experience in research, an ethics review is not necessary. A course director can, for example, give students anonymised data to manipulate, or even assign students to collect data, as long as there is a clear understanding that the students are working only for their own edification. It is only if the students are trying to answer a research question, with the goal of furthering understanding of a subject, that an eithics review becomes necessary.  For more information, speak to your experiential education coordinator, your department or school’s research officer or research administrator, or the Office of Research Ethics (see

Tools for Evaluating Student Progress

To evaluate course based research, the professor should use formative approaches to track the progress of the students. Examples include:

  • Interviews to assess progress
  • Submission of research in various stages
  • Research progress reports