Create My Questions

  • Know your purpose.
    • Think about your topic. What do you want or need to know about your research topic?
    • Then do some background reading to learn more about the topic.
    • Next, 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?    

General Statement of Purpose   =>   More Specific Essential Question   =>   Example of 1 Focus Question

I want to learn about rap music.   =>   What is the origin of rap music?   =>   Who were some of the first rap artists?

I want to learn about the Oregon Trail.   =>   How did the Oregon Trail change the west?    =>   How did the population of the Oregon Territory change between 1843 and when it became a state in 1859?

I want to learn about the heart.    =>   Why is the heart an important organ in our body?    =>   What role does the heart play in the circulatory system?

I want to know about pro basketball.    =>   What does it take to be a professional basketball player?    =>   What eligibility rules are there for playing in the NBA?

I want to find out about recycling.    =>   How has recycling affected the environment?    =>   What happens to the plastics that get recycled?

I want to find out about fashion careers.    =>   How does one become a fashion designer?    =>   What schools offer fashion design as a degree?

I want to learn about Michelle Obama.    =>   How did Michelle Obama influence the younger generation as first lady?    =>   What was the Let's Move! program?

Some of the information about essential questions came from Holly Samuels, Librarian at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School in 2004. Adapted and used with permission.

To learn more, watch this Choosing a Topic & Developing a Research Question video.

Choosing a Topic & Developing a Research Question video thumbnail


Next => Now that you have created your questions, it is time to choose your keywords.

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