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Fall Research Course: Guiding Questions

Guiding Questions

  • What is your research question?
  • What do you already know about this topic?
  • What information do you need to answer your research question?
  • Where might you find this information?

These are some guiding questions to have students work through before they start their research in earnest. Depending on the particulars of the project, the questions can be tweaked or rearranged. Students do some background research first, and going through these questions may come before or after exploring resources and search strategies (Google search tools, MARVEL databases, books in the library, etc.)

Dialogue

Here's an example of how this might look in practice:

 

What is your research question?

How have penguins evolved to live in their environment.

 

What do you already know about this topic?

I know penguins live in Antarctica, they eat fish and swim. They’re birds, but they don’t fly.

 

What information do you need to answer your research question?

I need to know how penguins evolved to live in their environment.

We might need to break that down a little more and be more specific. Can we break this into parts?

How penguins evolved and their environment?

That’s a good start. Now you’re broken this down into two parts, how penguins evolved and their environment. You said you already know they live in Antarctica, so that’s their environment. What might you need to know about Antarctica?

How cold it gets. Maybe if there are predators?

Great! So let’s go back to how penguins evolved. You know that penguins don’t fly, but they swim. What more information might you need?

Why don’t they fly? What kind of fish do they eat, how do they stay warm.

This should be a good start. As you work and learn more, you might find other details that are important, or new questions might come up for you, but now you have an idea of where to start.

 

Where might you find this information?

The internet, books

So what kind of websites do you think you’ll look for on the internet?

Science websites. Zoos?

So science websites, or a zoo or aquarium that has penguins might have information about penguins, too.