Asking A Question
Generate investigable questions. Revisit the latest message from the homeowner.
- What ideas do you have about the homeowner’s comment: “I would really like to dig into an investigation of my home electricity use. What questions could you suggest that we could investigate together?”
Examine the real-time data. With a partner or in small groups, carefully examine the real-time data. Make a list of as many questions as you can about what you are noticing and wondering. Write any questions that come to mind, without censoring or editing ideas - you’re brainstorming right now! However, keep in mind that the homeowner is particularly interested in reducing electricity use and costs. Often one of the first ways to help someone do this is to help them learn more about their patterns of electricity use.
Sort your questions. Once you’ve come up with a big list of questions, it might be helpful to cut your list apart so that each question is on one strip of paper. Sort your questions into two piles: investigable questions and researchable questions. The description below will help you as you sort your questions. If you’re not certain, you could put your question in an “other category.”
- Investigable questions are questions that can be investigated / answered by doing something concrete with the tools and materials such as real time data, electricity bills, Kill A Watt meters, etc. that are available to you. Keep in mind, investigation questions must be able to be answered using what you have access to. If we cannot interact directly with the homeowner, this limits some of the questions we can investigate. Answering an investigable question involves taking an action, often using equipment or tools to collect first-hand information. Investigable questions often include comparison questions such as “How does ___ compare to ____?
- Researchable questions are questions that are perhaps best answered through print research and/or by consulting with an expert in the field. They tend to be more informational or factual in nature and do not lend themselves to being answered by investigating with tools and materials. Questions that begin with “why” are often researchable questions.
Asking a question gets the investigation process started. Develop your question carefully and with an understanding of the data you will use to find your answer.
Develop an investigation plan. Once you have selected and carefully developed your investigation question, plan how you will carry out the investigation. A key part of this planning involves developing a clear idea of what type of and how much data you’ll need to collect to answer your question. Data can be collected by measuring something, sampling, experimenting or in this case, using existing data sets. Use the Investigation Planning Guide to help. Be sure to record your investigation plan in your science notebook.