Generating questions

Research is all about asking questions, lots of questions.

Whatever your topic, having a clear set of questions you want to answer will help guide your research. Different types of questions lead you to different answers and more importantly more questions.

The first step is to think of the big picture to set the scope of your research (divergent question) and then narrow your focus to exactly what it is you want to find out.

Use a lotus diagram

Expand your ideas and thinking using a Lotus diagram. This is a great tool to use if you're using a primary source, like an image or an artefact, as the basis for your research.

This video from Coburg Senior High school goes through how to use a lotus diagram - Lotus diagram thinking tool on Vimeo.

Consider different types of questions

Different types of questions lead you down different paths. You could ask a factual question like ‘When did World War One begin?

These types of questions have simple answers you can find quickly online and they're an important part of building your background knowledge of a topic.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a useful framework you can use to help come up with a wide range of questions:

  • Remembering - When? Where? Who? What? How? Why?
  • Understanding - What does this mean? How would I summarise? How can … be compared to …? What could have happened next?
  • Applying - What would result…? What questions would I ask of…? What examples can be found to…?
  • Analysing - How is … related to …? What conclusions can I draw …? How would I classify…? What evidence can I find …?
  • Evaluating - How would I feel if…? What were the consequences of…? Was there a better way to…?
  • Creating - What would happen if…? How would I do this differently?

A more complex question might be ‘What were some of the consequences of World War One for women in Australia?’

This type of question has no straightforward answer, can't be answered from one source and asks you to analyse the information you find to come up with your own point of view. It also gives a clear direction for the kinds of key words you would put into a search engine or catalogue.

Keep asking questions

Make a habit of asking questions at every step of the research process. Each time you find new information, ask ‘What am I wondering about this?’, ‘How does this connect to what I already know?’, ‘What new questions do I now have?’.

Every question takes you deeper into the topic and closer to understanding what you think and how you want to write about your research.

Good questions guide your research and help you work out what you think and why.