Poking and Prying with Purpose

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose” – Zora Neale Hurston

I recently finished reading Guided Inquiry Design: A framework for inquiry in your school by Ann K. Caspari, Carol Kuhlthau, and Leslie K. Maniotes.

The book is a manual for teaching students how to learn. It changed my thinking of how I teach research papers.

I was bold this semester and decided to change what type of research paper I was teaching and the way that I was teaching research papers. As well as my dedication to complete every project I have my students do.

The research paper that I selected, after being inspired by a ICTE Writer’s Retreat, was a Multigenre reseach paper.


Writing and teaching research papers can easily be comparable to going to the dentist. It is not something you want to do, but you have to do.

The Multigenre research papers changes the narrative. The paper consists of a formal research paper and several complimentary genre pieces. The project sold me for two different reason. The first reason is that it allows students creativity as a writer. The second is that it allows students to really become experts on a topic by exploring it from a variety of facets.

I pieced together the project from a variety of materials from other English teachers and a few ideas of my own. (Special thanks to Lauren Petri for sharing her materials- and to Haley Moehlis for creating some of the material Lauren shared with me)

The first two days of this project were dedicated to the open stage. As a class we visited virtual museums, watched youtube videos, read newspapers in search of inspiration.

As we discovered, my students needed to formulate an idea for: person, place, event, conspiracy, controversy. From this list my students selected one topic that they thought had the most credible sources.

In the past I would have instructed my students to create a working outline. I would have wanted them to think about what they would want to write about and use that outline to guide their research.

This does not teach my students how to learn. It is comparable to drawing a picture vs. a paint by number. In leu of a working outline, I taught my students how to research using guided inquiry questions.

The first step is to start simple. I have been writing this paper with my students and this has been my example:

Fu Go Balloons

  1. What are Fu Go Balloons and how were they made?

This is the information that I used to do my initial research. I discovered that the Japanese made them during WWII. They used their research of wind currents to carry these bombs over the Pacific ocean.

The next stage is to use this research and now ask defining and analytical questions.

  1. What background information do I need to understand why Japan used this weapon?
  2. Where there different types of balloon bombs?
  3. What caused Japan to create these?
  4. What was done about these bombs?

The final step is to create one question that allows you to room to reflect and engage with your research.

  1. Why did Japan use balloons to send bombs to the U.S.A and what was America’s reaction?

I am impressed with the questions that my students are developing. They are thoughtful and are really shaping how the research.

My student are engaged and I am excited to see how their research will unfold.




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