Thinking about Questions: Beyond Topical Research

A Feinberg Guide for Students

Better Questions Lead to Better Research!

"Which one" questions ask you to collect information and make informed decisions.

  • Which city in the Mid-Atlantic region is the best place to live?
  • Which serious disease most deserves research funding?

"How" questions ask you to understand problems, to weigh options from various points of view, and to propose solutions.

  • How would I solve an environmental problem in my neighborhood?
  • How did the scientific advances of the nineteenth century affect the outcome of the Civil War?

"What if" or hypothetical questions ask you to use your knowledge to pose a hypothesis and consider the options.

  • What if the Declaration of Independence had abolished slavery?
  • What if the Germans hadn't sunk the Lusitania?

"Should" questions ask you make a moral or practical decision based on evidence.

  • Should we clone humans?
  • Should we initiate trade with Cuba?

"Why" questions ask you to understand the cause and effect, to understand relationships. "Why" can help you get to the essence of an issue.

  • Why do people abuse children?
  • Why is the mortality rate of one developing country higher than another?

Source: Joyce Kasman Valenza, Ph.D. (Learn more)
Valenza, J.K. (2003) Power Research Tools: Learning Activities & Posters. Chicago, IL. American Library Association.

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