Essential Question

Beginning the 2001-2002 Senior Exhibition
Essential Questions
Essential questions are interesting, relevant, thorough, thoughtful and ambiguous - in that
they should not have one clear answer. In one student’s words, they should be “questions
that theories can be developed from.” Good essential questions often involve a moral or
ethical dilemma and/or address issues of bias or perspective. All significant aspects
(including opposing viewpoints) of the student’s response to a good essential question are
able to be supported by researchable evidence.
Your first task is to write an essential question related to your area of study.
Writing a “what I know and what I wonder” paper
Your task after designing an essential question is to write a paper describing what you
know about your topic and what questions you have about it. You should discuss:
What is the topic, issue or question that you are interested in?
Why are you interested in this topic, issue or question?
What do you know about the topic, issue or question already?
What do you hope to learn about the topic, issue or question?
What are your opinions about the topic, issue or question?
How are these opinions biased? What causes these biases?
Generating an outline to respond to an essential question
After writing your “what I know and what I wonder” paper, you should build an outline
of questions related to your essential question.
1) Create a list of topics that should be explored in order to thoroughly answer your
essential question.
2) List moral or ethical issues that may be necessary to investigate.
3) List issues of bias or perspective that may be necessary to investigate.
4) Brainstorm a list of questions about each topic or issue listed in parts 1) to 4).
5) List concepts or terms related to your essential question and your questions from
parts 2) to 5) that may need to be clarified or defined.
6) Organize your list of topics, issues and questions in a logical manner, stating your
essential question clearly at the top.