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Effective research is driven by questions. If you have no questions, or have not brought them into focus, you won’t know what you are looking for, you won’t know how to read texts or listen to people, and you won’t recognize important information when you find it. You will be lost (without a purpose, without a focus).
Anessential question is about the “big picture.” Normally, essential questions cannot be finally answered, but in thinking about them and researching, our understanding becomes more subtle, morequalified, backed up by better and better reasoning. We move closer to wisdom.
Essential Questions can be focused into narrower questions by dividing a big topic, such as “the sixties,” into subtopics, such as “the Vietnam War” or “the Civil Rights movement.”
Such focused essential questions are a good place to start researching the background you will need for your research paper.
A good individual research question will be much more tightly focused—maybe on a single event or person: “How was my grandfather changed by his experiences in Vietnam?” or “How did the Beatles change popular music?” or “How did reservation life change on the Flathead Indian Reservation during the 1960s?”