5 Surprising Ideas for Research Questions Activities to Help Your Students Deep Dive into Expository Writing

Teaching our students to ask detailed questions to gain the most information out of their research is an important skill.  But just like most things in teaching, we can assume our students know how to ask questions that will deepen their understanding.  We have to challenge and guide our students through the research question process to help them craft their best expository writing.

Before I Had Ideas for Research Questions Activities

Have you ever assigned a complex research project and within the first 20 minutes of research your students declare that they are done and ready to write?  You know they can’t have found enough information to write a great paper or create a great project, but they disagree.  My students would make these claims all the time.

How Can We Help Students Think of Ideas for Research Questions

What teacher hasn’t experienced a student who finishes their research quickly, when in fact they do not have enough information to complete their expository writing project?  They may lack some motivation, but I think it goes deeper than that.  Students don’t understand how to ask real questions that will lead to deeper knowledge and understanding of their topics.

Why Do Students Need Great Ideas for Research Questions?

In expository writing, all the research is guided by the questions the writer asks.  The writer might read some general articles, but they look for answers to the specific questions they have written down.  If their questions are shallow or basic then their papers and projects will follow suit.  If we want our students to gain a deeper understanding of the material and become better at expository research and writing then we must teach them how to ask better questions. 

More Articles About Developing Ideas for Research Questions

How to Write a Research Question

Developing a Research Question

How Do We Develop Ideas for Research Questions in Our Students?

Our students need our help to develop and practice the skill of asking questions.  For so long our students have been asked to hold their questions, stay on topic, and wait until later, so no they have forgotten how to ask real questions and be curious.  Once we teach them how to ask more questions then they will have so many ideas for research questions.  We have to spend time teaching, modeling, and practicing the skill of asking questions so our students will become strong researchers.  These research questions activities will help your students ask better questions and gain more out of their research

Model Ideas for Research Questions

It shouldn’t be any surprise that one of the most valuable methods of teaching students how to ask questions for their research projects is to model them.  No matter which method of asking questions you work on with your students, be sure to model it for them.  They need to hear your thought process and ideas as one question leads to another and you categorize and sort questions.  They need to hear you ask silly questions and hard questions that there might not be an answer to.  The more you talk them through the process of brainstorming ideas for research questions the more they will learn.

Starburst Ideas for Research Questions

Starburst is an awesome activity that helps students develop ideas for research questions.  This activity is fairly new to me and at the same time, it’s not.  Students get a graphic organizer with a star on it.  At each point of the star, there is a question starter, like who, what, where, when, why, how, and purpose.  Students record several questions that start with each word.  

Starburst is an awesome activity that helps students develop ideas for research questions.  This activity is fairly new to me and at the same time, it’s not.  Students get a graphic organizer with a star on it.  At each point of the star, there is a question starter, like who, what, where, when, why, how, and purpose.  Students record several questions that start with each word.  

Since the graphic organizer is a star, students tend to be more engaged in the activity rather than writing a list. You can have students work in pairs or small groups too so they can build off of each other’s ideas.  Customization is possible too.  Depending on what topics your students are researching you can customize the questions or categories to fit the project.

Ideas for Research Questions with Question Builder 

Using this group work activity will help your students work together and come up with lots of ideas for research questions.  In Question Builder, each student writes their topic at the top of their page.  Then they write down one question about the topic.  Next, they pass their paper to a classmate.  The classmate reads the question and then adds a question based on the previous one.  You can imagine how many questions the students will come up with.  And since they are building off the previous question they are guaranteed to dive deep into some questions.  Also, They can’t repeat questions.

Partner Ideas for Research Questions

Having students work with a partner always engages students more.  There are two ways you can have students work on asking questions with partners.

The first partner question activity is more classic.  Have your students pair off to work on asking questions.  Set a timer for five or ten minutes.  Then the students will work on writing questions for one person’s topic.  When the timer goes off they switch and work on the other person’s topic.  

The second partner activity is more of an asking questions and mingling activity. Students start by writing their topic on the top of a piece of paper.  Students take their papers with them to walk around and talk to other students.  With each student, they should trade papers and write a question about the topic.  Students can’t say “no” to anyone who wants to trade papers and they should try to trade with everyone at least once.

Ideas for Research Questions: 21 Question Challenge

This research question activity can work in two ways. Personally, I would use both methods paired together.

First, you can pick a topic and let the students ask you questions until they figure out the topic.  They should try to figure it out before they hit 21 questions.  Students should record the questions and answers so that they can develop better ideas for their next question.  This activity will show your students that the more questions they ask the closer they get to know the topic because asking questions lead to information and understanding.

The second way you can do this activity is to have students try to write 21 questions in a set amount of time.  The goal of this version of 21 questions is that students write down all their questions without filtering themselves.  It’s the same way you model questions for them by letting the silly and hard questions mix in with the rest.

Ideas for Research Questions Leads to Incredible Keywords for Research

Now your students have a plethora of questions to work on answering as they research, but your job isn’t done.  They have these great questions, but that doesn’t translate into strong research skills.  When students are researching online it all comes down to understanding keywords.

Keywords are what researchers type into a search engine to find the information they need.  Often students will type in full questions or just the general topic they are researching and expect to find all the information.  But now your students have good questions.  Have your students highlight the most important words in each question.  These will be their keywords.

Teach your students how to type keywords into the search engine.  They may need to use synonyms or change the order of the words they are using.  Students might also need to think of whole new ways to ask the same question because it will give them different search results.  Finally, students should look at the different services a search engine offers such as imagines, videos, or news. 

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step directions guide your class through the writing process with all the necessary worksheets making this the perfect lesson for your classroom.

Leave a Reply