What Does the Reader Want to Know? Creating Research Questions

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SWBAT develop specific questions to help guide their research.

Big Idea

It is challenging to research a big topic and even more difficult to sort through all the information available. Answering specific questions makes the task more manageable.

Introduction and Modeling

10 minutes

In the previous lesson, students developed subtopics to get engaged in their research topic and to help them begin considering direction for their research. In this lesson, students will change their topics into questions that they will specifically answer while researching.

I start by reminding them of the work we did before and tell them that writers will often think of the type of questions that their reader might have and that are important to answer in the report. 

Using my class example, I show the list of topics that we came up with before: landforms, industry, tourism and then think aloud about the questions that fall under each category. For example,


  1. What type of landforms are there in this region?
  2. What is the biggest river in this region?
  3. Is there any famous or important landforms in this region?
  4. What is the name of biggest or most important landforms in the region?


If students have five or more subtopics then three questions are enough per subtopic. If they have less, I would push them find 4 questions for each subtopic.

Main Activity

20 minutes

AFter I model how I would develop questions for the subtopics, I ask the students to help me do it with another subtopic. I give them another subtopic to try out: tourism

I ask students to think about the questions they or another reader might want answered in the section about tourism in my report. Once they have an idea, they are to turn and share with their partners.

As students share their ideas, I write them down and congratulate students for how many questions they could come up with.

Now its their turn to write questions down for their own subtopics.


5 minutes

After students have finished writing down questions for their own subtopics, I restate the purpose for the activity. One way that writers focus their research is by thinking of subtopics. Another way is by thinking of questions that their readers will want answered or are important to be answered. Today, they thought of their readers and wrote down questions that will direct their research.

I have each student share out one question that they are hoping to answer through their research. While students share, other students are also engaged as they get excited about learning the answers that their peers provide later in their report.