Encounter the Research Task Encounter the Research Task Skill 4: Create and refine your research question.

You are now ready for a very important step. You should be ready to pause and ask meaningful research questions. Don't worry, we've prepared well for this phase. You have previously completed some browsing to get an overview of what is available on the general topic and obtained information on interesting ideas to build background knowledge. You goal is to construct a research question from the interesting ideas, pressing problems, and emerging themes you have explored in various sources of information. Your research questions will zero in on a part or aspect of the larger topic that will frame the rest of your research process.

The type of information changes from general information on the subject to specific information about the research question. Now the search will be limited and framed by what is available to address your question.

Skill-builders & Tools

Charts,  Maps, and Graphic Organizers for Identifying Research Question

Inquiry Charts are helpful to organize ideas and identify research questions. They can help you link ideas and see emerging questions. Charting provides a structure for you to sort through the notes, ideas and questions in your inquiry journals to make a decision for identifying an inquiry question.

Use theas a guide so you can create charts that visualize any ideas, issues, conflicts, relationships, and strategies that emerge.

University of Santa Cruz-Choose a Research Topic- The University of Santa Cruz gives 5 simple steps students can use, with the help of charting, to determine a topic to use in their research.

Chart to Decide Protocol

  • Review-reflect on the inquiry log and the contents of the journal to chart ideas and information to decide on a question to pursue.
  • Reconsider-Identify what is interesting to you. Mark what is interesting with a highlighter.
  • Visualize your questions-Create a chart of your ideas, look for similarities and differences, write a question that represents the ideas in your chart, identifying the three most interesting questions that allow you to do the following:
    • Explore, explain, analyze and interpret information
    • Examine from different points of view
    • Synthesize
    • Apply understandings to new situations

  • Share with your inquiry circle-In your circle consider the following questions to help you identify the direction of your inquiry:
    • How much time do I have?
    • How much information is available?
    • What are my learning goals?
    • Am I interested in this?

Choose Your Research Question

  1. Reflect on your charts/organizers from the previous lesson.
  2. For each topic, write as many questions as you can about each topic that would be used for further research. Turn any of your statements into questions to assist with this process.
  3. Set aside your generated questions for later use. 
  4. You may work independently or in inquiry circles help you create “big and deep” questions that could be asked about your topic that will require a more indepth analysis and provide you with a more focused path to your original research
  5. Refer back to your list of questions and eliminate or edit your questions that do not require more depth and analysis to at least three questions.
  6. Use charting to help prioritize the remaining questions. Use the chart to visualize, synthesize, and organize multiple ideas to make a final decision on your research question.
  7. Review journals and logs, charts, reread core sources, and discuss remaining questions with your inquiry circle to choose the best research question.

Your teacher or library media specialist will need to approve your research question.

Research Question Approval Form

inquiry chart
research question

Student Resources

Charts,  Maps, and Graphic Organizers


Choose Your Research Question

Guide to Developing Research Questions-Library Modesto Junior College  
Describes the importance of creating questions to guide research, provides insight on how to develop these questions, and includes many examples.

Develop a research question that works

A Questioning Toolkit (Dr. Jamie McKenzie)

Teacher Resources

Charts,  Maps, and Graphic Organizers

Chart to Decide Protocol

Holt Interactive Graphic Organizer

Mind-mapping your research

Choose Your Research Question

Sample Question Stems Based on New Bloom's Taxonomy

Do Now:

Write a paragraph in order to completely answer the following questions to show your thought process.

  1. I chose this topic because…
  2. What is the topic that you intend to study?
  3. I became interested in this topic when I…
  4. I still want to know...(about my topic).

Based on your preliminary research and/or conversation with your inquiry circle, develop your preliminary research question by answering the questions below.

  1. What is your problem or issue?
  2. What is your purpose?
  3. Compose a research question base on the topic, problem and purpose that answers the questions how and why. (Do not use who, what, where and when)

Do Next: Return to the Skills Menu to begin Research Process Step 2: Search and Gather