Questioning the questions

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I’ve written about topic development tools and about brainstorming.  As useful as these things are, a good research topic begins with a good question. Heiman and Slomianko’s Learning to Learn (2010) incorporates the asking of good questions into the research process.

The asking of good questions is a theme throughout the book (Heiman & Slomianko, 2010), but I’ll focus on the research process here.  Starting with a general topic you can develop a series of questions.  Then you can evaluate each question according to the following criteria:

  • Your prior knowledge of the topic
  • The availability of information on the topic
  • Your interest in the topic
  • The originality of the topic

The book has put these criteria into a handy question chart (p. 171).

Note how the above questions address both pragmatic concerns (for ex. the availability of information) and motivational issues (for ex. interest in the topic).  After all, why can’t a research question both be interesting and fulfill an assignment?


Heiman, M., & Slomianko, J. (2010). Learning to learn: Thinking skills for the 21st century (11th ed.).  Somerville, MA: Learning to Learn.