Defining Research Questions

Selecting aspects of a topic to research can be tough, especially for younger students who may, without guidance, collect a mishmash of random, unrelated facts.  This handout and activity helps students pick research questions that are relevant to them and their peers.Research Topic

Give each student a handout.  Have them write their topic in the box.  Their peers will come around to their paper (perhaps by playing Musical Chair Response, or simply by switching papers in rows or groups) and write questions they have about the topic.  Continue question-generating until there are 5-10 questions listed on each handout.  Each student will return to his/her own paper and circle the best 2-3 questions he or she is interested in researching.

Questions posed are authentic.  And in conjunction with musical chairs, this activity seems like less work and more fun, encouraging curiosity.  It’s important to discuss surface-level questions (“How big is Australia?”) versus more complex questions (“Why is so much of the land unoccupied by humans?”).  This activity, since it’s spur of the moment, might produce more surface-level questions.  Ask older students to think and write more complex questions under each topic.

You can download a blank handout Defining Research Questions.

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