Collaborative Research Model graphic

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Further Information (Note: Links open in a new browser window or tab.)

“Creating Essential Questions,” from Galileo Educational Network Association.

Manitoba Speech and Debate Association's list of issues resolutions.

Good Research Problems
Roles for Researchers


What Makes a Good Research Problem?

Without a strong research question, your collaborative research project is going to lack momentum and result in a weak response from students. In order to make sure you are taking your students in the right direction, carefully facilitate the selection of the research problem to be addressed, whether it is one you choose or one that your students come to through consensus. It may take some time and effort, but finding the “right” problem for a particular learning community is essential.

A good research problem is compelling. The problem that you and your students choose to explore must be important to them, to you, and to a larger community you share. The problem chosen must be one that motivates students to address it—to authentically engage in the goal of reasoned decision making.

A good research problem must support multiple perspectives. The problem most be phrased in a way that avoids dichotomies and instead supports the generation and exploration of multiple perspectives. A general rule of thumb is that a good problem is one that would generate a variety of viewpoints from a composite audience made up of reasonable people.

A good research problem must be researchable. It seems a bit obvious, but more than one instructor has found herself or himself in the midst of a complex collaborative research project and realized that students don’t have much to draw on for research, nor opportunities to conduct sufficient primary research. Choose research problems that can be supported by the resources available to your students.

Umbrella topics must be sufficiently complex. If you are using an umbrella topic for a large class of students who will be working on related, more manageable problems in their learning teams, make sure that there is sufficient complexity in the research problems that the umbrella topic includes. These research topics must relate strongly to one another in such a way that there will be a strong sense of coherence in the overall class effort.
Written and Oral Deliverables Creating the Assessment Collaborative Deliberation Developing Learning Teams Learning Through Reflection Learning Outcomes Posing the Problem Supporting Multiple Perspectives Making Informed Decisions Invitational Communication Climate