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PYPX: Creating Questions

Central Idea: We can each make a difference through community action.

Useful Databases

How to Create Your Questions

Research is about inquiry. Inquiry involves exploring ideas and information to make new discoveries, and it starts with asking questions. 

  • Know your purpose.
    • Think about your topic. What do you want or need to know about your research topic?
    • Do some background reading to learn more about the topic.
    • Write a general statement of purpose that begins with words like "I want to learn about..."
  • Form your essential or guiding question.
    • It is the main question that will guide your research.
    • It restates what you specifically want to learn about, but as a question.
    • Don't worry if you are not totally sure; your essential question may change before you are done.
  • Brainstorm subtopics you could investigate to help answer your essential question. This may require more background reading. 
  • Develop focus questions based on the subtopics you identified.
    • Each focus question covers one aspect or part of the essential question.  
    • They will guide you as you work so that you will read and take notes only on what is needed for your project.
    • As you research, you may need to add, remove, or change some of your focus questions. 
    • See the examples in the table below.


One person was very concerned about air pollution.

Her general statement of purpose was this: I want to learn about air pollution.

Her essential question became this: What can be done to stop air pollution?

She read some background information, and these are a few of her focus questions: What makes (contributes to) air pollution? Why is air pollution bad? What are some of the ways that air pollution is being controlled?  

(Credit to Oregon School Library Information System)

Brainstorm Your issue

What information are you looking for? Think about the keywords and questions you might have.

  • Choose an issue. Write as many questions as you can think of relating to that topic.
  • Make a mindmap of the issue. This could be either on paper or using an online tool like

What Questions Do I Have?

What interests me about this?
What do I already know and believe? (Share prior knowledge and beliefs)
What do the words/phrases about my topic mean? (Clarify language; “guess”, then find definitions)
What do I want to know more about?
What questions do I have? (Exercise curiosity)
How could I find out more about this? (Brainstorm ways/sources to answer your questions)

Kids Can Change the World

Ask Good Questions

The Skills You Have Learnt Already

When you are reading non-fiction books for information:

1. Skim the article by reading the headings and first sentence of each paragraph.

2. Generate questions (who, what, where, what, how) that you  think the article might be able to answer.

3. Scan the article by reading and highlighting only the specific information that you need to answer your questions.

4. Put all the details of the article together to answer your question.

United Nations International School, Hanoi