Formulating Research Questions

UDL 5.3

Formulating Research Questions is a method to be used as part of the research process in which the teacher guides students as they construct relevant questions that structure a research project in order to focus the scope of the project and gather research sources. Formulating Research Questions is a method through which the teacher guides students as they construct relevant questions that structure a research project in order to focus the scope of the project and gather relevant research sources. This strategy begins the research process because questions guide the search for specific, relevant research sources. Formulating Research Questions helps students focus their research using thought processes and tools that can be applied again in the future. While students conduct preliminary research, the teacher helps them first form open-ended questions for investigation and then narrow the questions to address their topic. Research questions should be logically connected and the depth of questions should match the desired scope of the research project. Formulating Research Questions provides structure for students to create manageable, relevant questions to effectively guide and organize research projects.

Implementation Tips

First Questions
Brainstorm knowledge about the topic quickly, either independently or as a whole class. Ask “Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? So what?” and “What if?” to reveal gaps in prior knowledge and lead students toward a line of questioning that’s most relevant to their topic.
Assess Knowledge with a KWL Chart
Complete a [[ | KWL chart]] to establish what students already know and what they want to learn about a research topic. After completing the first two columns, students conduct preliminary research about the topic and then complete the last column. Use the charts to inspire research questions.
Draft Preliminary Questions
Write three open-ended questions about the topic, using information from brainstorming and preliminary research process, then try to answer the questions briefly. Students should complete this process independently, even when the class is working on the same topic. Later questions will need to be refined; provide one-on-one assistance as needed.
Fine-Tuning Student Research Questions
Focus student research questions for the assignment’s scope. Narrow a topic like “space travel” to: “How is private space travel currently benefiting scientific research?” Questions will need to be revised if they are too broad (students will be overwhelmed with information) or too narrow (students won’t find enough credible information).
Partner with a Librarian
Partner with the librarian at your school or local library to discover research that would be difficult to find independently. Libraries have access to academic databases and subscriptions not always accessible by the general public, and librarians can apply their research expertise to help students approach their research interests.
The Big 6 Model
Use the [[ | Big 6]] process model, which has six stages, to guide the research process. Formulating Research questions fits in the Use of Information step (#4), where students will organize the relevant research they have uncovered through essential question writing.


Brainstorming Questions
Before students research independently, the teacher guides them through a brainstorming process, stating *“Jot down everything you know about the topic as quickly as you can.*” Next, the teacher asks students to: “*Consider the questions ‘Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? So what?”’ and ‘What if?’ These open-ended questions will direct your research process. The answers place information in front of you so you can formulate specific research questions to guide your project.”*
Drafting Initial Questions
The teacher says, *“Class, now we are going to write three open-ended questions about your topic, using information you found during the brainstorming and preliminary research process. Are your questions answerable? You’ll work independently and I’ll circulate to help you refine your questions.*” While students are reading sources, a teacher might announce: *“Some of you are highlighting too much information. Now I’ll model how to focus highlighting and notetaking based on your research questions.”*

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