Question Writer: Quick Primary Source Inquiry Activity

We digest much of our information by viewing pictures, illustrations, and videos. “Question Writer” helps learners think critically about the world around them by learning to ask purposeful questions.

The Question Writer Activity is a shortened version of the Question Formulation Technique from the Right Question Institute, and is engaging for all ages and skills levels. Generating open and closed questions offer starting points for investigation and research.


Choose a collection of primary sources that have the ability to generate a lot of questions, pique your student’s curiosity, and is engaging. You can hand out a different primary source or the same one to each group. Students perform this activity in four steps:

  1. Without any contextual information, think critically about the image.
  2. Write down as many questions you have about the image in one minute.
  3. Mark the close-ended questions with a ‘C’, and the open ended questions with an ‘O’.
  4. Choose one or more of the open-ended questions you are most interested in to discuss in small groups.

After the discussion, use the questions that student’s formulated in order to drive their own investigation and research. For example, you could incorporate these questions into a writing assignment. Another strategy is to have students compare and contrast the primary sources to formulate new questions.


Download the Question Writer activity sheet here.