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Developing Essential Questions

You might know a general topic that you want to investigate, but our goal is to dig deep using multiple resources. To guide your search you should formulate some essential questions that will motivate you and prepare you to write a worthwhile, interesting thesis in the drafting stage.

A Significant Essential Question

Examples from Mrs. Immediata's class project on the Soviet Experiment:

  • Why did the USA and USSR go from allies to enemies after WWII? (Isley)
  • As tensions between the United States and Soviet Union escalated, how was the Cold War fought between these two superpowers through the waging of proxy wars across the globe? (Williams)
  • How did Lech Walesa become president of Poland and how did he fall? (Lindsay)
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    Practice with EXPANDING Sample Topics


    Once you’ve made a good list of questions, try to sort them. Put any questions you can answer by looking in reference books to one side, as these will most likely result in facts, which cannot be the center of good research. The questions you have left will probably be how and why questions. If any of these revolve around similar themes, try to combine them. As you combine questions, you will create questions of greater significance. For example, the questions about FSA photography above could be combined with the following related questions:

    Written as a single guiding question, this could be:

    What did the photographs taken by the Farm Security Administration reveal about the role photography played in the Roosevelt administration's promotion of the New Deal?

    Now you're ready to search for answers!

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