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Research as Inquiry

Spark Seminar Resource for Faculty


Research Questions - Activities & Materials

#1 Combine Internal (personal interest) + External Information (class materials, other sources);  See Exploring Topics -- Resources.

  • course theme(s)
  • jigsaw activities
  • independent information finding

#2 Asking Questions: Who, What, Where, When

Sample topic: social networking sites

  • Who is involved?
    • parents, college students, children of immigrants, over-achievers, U.S. adults, baby boomers, Europeans ...
  • What is the topic or topics?
    • social media, privacy, friendship, health, disinformation, voting, ...
  • Where did this happen?  Where is this happening?
    • country, community, homes, jails, California, Asia, college campuses, online ...
  • When did this happen?
    • X century, post 9/11, 1920s, specific day, last 10 years

image of what, who how, why, where, when

#3 Using a Reading to Choose a Research Topic -- Worksheet (PDF), Hayden and Margolin at Hunter College Libraries

  • Uses an article to go through the process of coming up with additional research questions.  Students read Sherry Turkle's "Can You Hear Me Now" (2007) from Forbes.   The PDF is found at "Asking a Research Question".
  • The starting question is "How is technology affecting us?"  Students ask asked to be more specific about defining technology, what the affects may be (affecting what?), and defining the population (us).
  • This moves the students from the broader questions to narrower questions.  Examples of narrower research questions are given.

#4 Stases as a Research Method and Student Stases Worksheet (PDF), Hayden and Margolin at Hunter College Libraries

  • This methods ask six questions about an issue.  The worksheet gives 3 examples of research questions starting with "Does a problem exist?" (Existence). 

#5 "How Do I Create Research Questions?" (PDF), student handout from Sonoma State University Library

  • A) I am studying ... B) In order to find out ... C) In order to help my reader understand D) Research Question: The second page asks students to evaluate research questions by interest, focus, scope and feasibility.
  • The library guide also provides examples of research questions, both those with problems and those that are improved.

#6 Building Research Questions (PDF), brainstorming activity for students with handout (PDF)

  • Students generate possible research questions through the video/brainstorming activity. Then they use the handout in pairs to dive deeper into a conversation about their potential research questions.
  • Video: Mapping Your Research Ideas (UCLA Library); larger lesson adapted from Research Exploration Exercise from Archambault listed below
  • Note: Word documents of these activities are linked below in case you'd like to edit them

#7 Research Exploration Exercise, Susan Archambault at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) Library

  • An extensive handout (8 pgs.) leading students through identifying a research topic, conducting background reading, noting social justice themes, concept mapping, identifying related scholarly conversations, incorporating other viewpoints, etc. Note that there are references to materials at LMU Library.

#8 Developing a Research Questions, materials developed for Teaching Research and Information Literacy (TRAIL) with Writing 10 at UC Merced

  • example of research questions for discussion; chart emphasizes moving from issue (topic) to narrower questions.  It asks students to identify the underlying problem, the social significance and a possible proposal/solution.  Students may need to investigate more before they can articulate a solution.

#9 Teaching the Craft of Writing an Effective Research Question, a series of lesson place from Rachel Dineen and Brianne Markowski at the University of Northern Colorado (UNC)

  • Characteristics of Effective Research Questions - Students review evaluative criteria from the Student's Guide to Writing College Papers (though it can be done without the chapter.)  Criteria is reviewed in class.  They work in pairs to improve upon a sample research question.
  • Peer Review Research Questions -- Criteria for effective research questions is reviewed.  Characteristics of effective feedback are given, Students review each other's questions and reflect on the process.
  • Moving Beyond Scenarios -- Students take a scenario and create a research question from it using this fill-in-the-blank statement. I am working on the topic of _______________ because I want to find out _______________ so I can suggest to _______________ what to do to improve _______________.
  • Topic Brainstorm -- Students think about how their specific interest links to a larger (societal) issue with three concentric circles of Me, Community, and Nation. 
  • Narrowing a Topic Brainstorm -- Students are encouraged to develop a topic based on sources frm three peer-reviewed articles selected by the instructor related to a specific topic e.g. sustainable agriculture.  Students create a topic mindmap.