Assignment: Question Formation


Leaning Goals

We rarely consider the origin of questions and how their structure influences how we form, understand and solve problems. Numerous factors — our knowledge and reflective abilities, personal relationships, previous research and texts, resources, technology, social institutions, field of study — figure into the ways we pose questions and provide possible answers. In the context of this course, I want us to further develop our intuitions regarding the relationships among posing questions, configuring problems and our conceptions of science and writing.

In this assignment, you will form and present questions based on the course readings — or on issues and topics related to the readings. Your questions will lend the basis for class discussion. Class discussion will involve not only the issues raised in, and related to, the readings, but also will invite analyses of the questions themselves and the answers they prompt.

Practice

Five times during the semester — September 6, 13, October 11, 25, November 15 (please refer to the course calendar) — please post three to five questions on the class reading assigned for that day (please feel free to look at the background, and related, material) to the appropriate forum on the wiki by 10 a.m. before class. Please have your questions and citations ready for class discussion.

The questions will be based on the assigned reading and/or on issues and topics related to the readings. For each question that you develop, I ask that you provide references to the assigned text — or to outside texts — that lend a basis for how you formed the question and for how the question might be answered. For passages in assigned readings, you need only provide a page number. For passages in outside sources, please provide full, MLA-style citations.

The purpose of the questions is to encourage thoughtful analysis and discussion. Please consider the "who, what, where, when, how" implied in the formulation of the question. I offer the following prompts to encourage an analysis of the questions as you pose them:

    • What kind of thinking does the question provoke? Does the question ask for a description? A judgment? An opinion? Data?
    • How is the question posed structurally? Is the question short, long, compound, over determined, vague, careless, precise, wordy?
    • How might the question be answered? What resources might be needed to answer the question — personal opinion, experience, expertise, experiment, close reading of the text, interpretation?
    • Who does the question ask the respondent to be? Fellow seeker? Novice? Dope? Collaborator? Believer? Cynic? Judge? Agent of change?
    • What is the goal of the question? Affirmation and Confirmation? Provocation? Knowledge seeking? Information?
    • When might the question be answered? Does the question assume an immediate answer? Does the question assume a certain vision of the future? Does the question assume a certain understanding of the past? Of current events?

I will randomly select students to present their questions (making sure all get turns during the semester!) and, accordingly, prompt and lead class discussion.

Summary

• For each designated Thursday on the course calendar I would like you to post, by 10 a.m., three to five questions on the assigned reading and/or on issues related to the reading.
• For each question, I would like you to provide references to the text or full citations to related outside sources. Please bring the questions and citations to class on the appropriate day.
• For each class discussion I will randomly select students to present their questions and citations.

Due Dates

September 6, 13, October 11, 25, November 15 (please refer to the course calendar).

Science Writing