Inquiry Questions

Inquiry questions – 10% of final grade

Questions are at the center of all academic work; they are the beginning and middle and end of all intellectual progress. But some questions are better than other questions. “Better” here means that these questions lend themselves to academic research.

1) They are answerable. Even though scholars are often as interested in the methods for answering questions as in the answers themselves and even though the answers to these questions are so complex that scholars often debate them for generations (or longer!), academic questions have to be the kind of questions we can, conceivably, answer. Sometimes it is just a matter of rephrasing the question. For example, “Is Chinatown a good place for children to grow up?’” is not answerable because “good” is so vague as to invite only opinion. A more academic version of this question would be “What are the educational, social, and cultural benefits and drawbacks of growing up in an economically and racially diverse urban neighborhood like chinatown.”
2) The answer isn't already known.
3) They have to be more than fact questions. “How many children under the age of 15 live in Chinatown” is a fact question. The answer can be found in the latest census figures. The answer to fact questions don’t help you understand the world, they don’t further knowledge. Fact questions are often important parts or steps in researching the answer to inquiry questions (this would be great information to have as you answer the question above).
4) They have to have stakes to them. There has to be a “so what.” The answer matters. One of the reason fact questions don’t make the cut is that there is no “so what” to them. The first Chinatown question had very small stakes (answer applies to such a small segment of the population), but the stakes are larger in the second Chinatown question because it includes neighborhoods all over the country that, like Chinatown, are economically and racially diverse.
5) They are questions of the right size for the academic occasion.

Submit 1 NARROWED inquiry questions growing out of your visit to your neighborhood (Submit three for instructor review and 1 narrowed question in final version). For each question, include a paragraph defending its answerability and a paragraph explaining what it is at stake, why the question matters. To prove it is answerable, discuss the methods you would go through to answer it.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License