Twenty-One Questions

Brief Description:

In this activity students will explore the concept of inquiry-based research. Students begin with either a general topic or an object that relates to the theme of the class (artifact, advertisement, artwork, or article). After doing background reading on the topic, students develop research questions based on that starting point. The activity culminates in a list of twenty-one questions that have come from a simple topic, showing students the role inquiry plays in the research process.

Primary Learning Outcome:

  • Given a topic with conflicting perspectives, formulate appropriately complex research questions. (1.1)

Additional Learning Outcomes:

  • Analyze research topics to identify component parts for systematic investigation. (1.2)
  • Develop and apply topic-specific vocabulary throughout the research process. (2.1)

Time Needed:

45 minutes


  • Printable Activity Plan [Word] [PDF]


  1. Divide students into groups of 2-4.
  2. Assign each group a general research topic (i.e., “Racism on social media”). Alternatively, an image, artifact, piece of art, or an advertisement may be used.
  3. Have students do a 15-20 minute “background reading” search using Google, Google Scholar, and any other web resource (videos, blogs, etc.) to find out more about their topic. Students should take note of things they find interesting or new along the way. Students should be encouraged to take into account the different perspectives and approaches to the topic that they come across in their reading, and diversify their notes with this in mind.
  4. Have each group take 15 minutes to come up with six research questions on their topic based on what they read.
  5. End the class by coming together to share research questions.

Questions about this activity? Contact Grace Adeneye.