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Big Idea 1: Question and Explore

6 min readβ€’december 28, 2022

Steven Kucklick

Steven Kucklick

AP SeminarΒ πŸ’¬

13Β resources
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Overview of Big Idea 1

Big Idea (BI) 1 is the first of the major themes of AP Seminar.
You can sort of think of the BIs as the framework for the course. They cover the main things that you will be doing, and the ways that you will go about completing, the Performance Tasks (PTs) and final exam.
Question and Explore covers a lot of the preliminary tasks that you'll be completing when starting a PT, or even just a simple assignment. Questioning the world and exploring interesting topics is part of what makes AP Seminar such a compelling class!
You as the student have the opportunity to explore areas that you find interesting. While this seems easy, there are more efficient, scholarly ways to go about asking questions and exploring than others, and we'’ll be discussing them in this guide.

Essential Questions

College Board has identified 8 essential questions that you should be asking yourself in regards to this Big Idea:
  • How does the context of a problem or issue affect how it is interpreted or presented?
  • How might others see the problem or issue differently?
  • What questions have yet to be asked?
  • What voices or perspectives are missing in my research?
  • What do I want to know, learn, or understand?
  • How does my research question shape how I go about trying to answer it?
  • What information do I need to answer my question?
  • What keywords should I use to search for information about this topic?
Source:Β College Board
Now, you do not need to be asking yourself these questions every time you read an article or compile research. Instead, these are questions that you should consider when you start your research process and be thinking of throughout it. ✍️
Quick Tip: The Essential Questions are here to guide you, but you do not need to get too hung up on them. Instead, refer back to them if you are having trouble understanding exactly what you should be doing in Big Idea 1.
Quick Tip: It might be helpful to write down these questions on a sheet of paper or flashcard for reference as you do your research.

Questioning and Exploring Tips

Before you can begin research, you need to have a research question. Before you can have a research question, you need to have a clear topic.

Research Topics

In both PI's, you'll need to come up with a topic. In Performance Task 1, you will need to work with your group to come up with a good topic. As long as it's an "academic or real-world problem or issue," the sky's the limit! In Performance Task 2, you'll be working individually but must work within the stimulus materials.
Here are some of the topics College Board says students have worked on in the past:
  • Effect of texting on grammar skills
  • Wealth inequality
  • Genetically modified organisms
  • Role of art in education
  • Importance of voting age and civic participation of teens
  • Mathematics behind extreme sports
  • Food waste solutions
  • Future of the automotive industry
Research Tip: This might sound obvious, but try to choose a topic you are geninuely interested in!

What is an Effective Research Question?

College Board has identified 5 Criteria for an Effective Research Question:
1. Involves genuine points of ongoing debate
  • A question like "does wealth inequality exist" would not work because that is not a debate (in most circles). A question like "what are the causes of wealth inequality in suburban areas" is debatable.
  • You don't want to work with a question that people have already come to a consensus on. "Is germ theory valid" may have been an effective research question a hundred years ago, but today it’s known to be true.
2. Invites engagement with alternate perspectives
  • You don't want to ask a question that's too one-sided.
  • When doing your topic research, see what professionals (reporters, academics) are saying about the subject. This will help you to see if a topic is both part of an ongoing debate and invites engagement with alternate perspectives.
3. Requires a judgement or evaluation to be made
  • If your question meets the first two criteria, it'll most likely meet this one.
4. Is Researchable
  • This criteria gets a lot of people! It's pretty common to have an excellent research question that you as a high school student just don't have the time or resources to research.
  • A way to
5. Is simple
  • The question avoids additional embedded questions. It's straightforward.

Other Factors to Consider

  • πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘¦ Research questions are complex. with multiple perspectives and stakeholders.
  • πŸ™‹β€β™‚οΈThe way that you go about asking your question will inform how you research it.
  • πŸ‘€ Bias exists everywhere, even within your research question.
  • 🀨 There are no bad questions, but the question you have may not always be effective or answerable.
When formulating a particularly effective research question, you should at some point be asking yourself all of these things. You should not be spending a considerable amount of time with all of these questions, but certainly you want to consider them all before you start researching.

How Big Idea 1 Relates to the Exam

You will find elements of Big Idea 1 throughout the Performance Tasks and the EOC.
Below are places that you will see Big Idea 1 in the graded portions of the course.

Performance Task 1

  • As a team you will have to brainstorm research questions that are complex but manageable. Think hard about research questions that have a good body of research that you can access.
  • As you explore your research and look for evidence you will need to make sure you gather multiple perspectives on your topic.

Performance Task 2

  • Although you will have a stimulus packet to help guide your questioning, you will still need to explore topics based around a central theme.
  • Do not feel like your exploration is limited. The themes are always broad enough that you can find something that interests you.

End of Course Exam

  • The EoC is where you will be utilizing Big Idea 1 the least. However, you will still need to use your knowledge of what makes a good question when you answer the questions to Part 1.
  • A good example of what this looks like is in Part 1 of the EoC. Here, you will be analyzing an author's argument, line of reasoning, and evidence. While you are discussing how successful the author was (especially with their argument) you may want to make notes about their research question. Was it too broad? Was it narrow? These types of observations will help you score higher on this portion of the exam.

Rubric Example:

Take a look at this segment from Performance Task 2's Rubric:

If you look at the rubrics for all of the College Board graded assignments, you will see that College Board wants you to think about the way that YOU are perceiving the question and the way that OTHERS might also perceive it. Analyzing and thinking about multiple perspectives makes someone a good researcher.
Not only does College Board want you to look at multiple perspectives, but they also want you to make connections betweenΒ them!

Image Courtesy of Giphy.Β 

Ways to "Study" Big Idea 1

There is no real way to study for any of the Big Ideas in AP Seminar, but there are ways that you can improve your understanding of them.
Creating good research questions is not something that you will be good at immediately. In fact, you may do an hour of research only to find that your question is just too shallow. This is NOT a bad thing! The best way to create good research questions is through trial and error. If you come up with a good research question that turns out to be a dud, reflect and take notes on why it didn't work. Was it too narrow? Was it too complex? Was there an easy solution? This type of reflection will help you be better prepared for next time.
Of course there are good quick reads that you can explore past this guide. I am linking two of them below.

In Conclusion

To wrap things up, Big Idea 1 is all about questioning the world around you and exploring topics that you find interesting. There are correct ways to go about this, but the important thing to remember is that very rarely will a topic you explore be black and white. Research questions will always be complex with multiple ways to approach them.

Image Courtesy of Giphy.

Browse Study Guides By Unit
🀨Big Idea 1: Question and Explore
🧐Big Idea 2: Understand and Analyze
πŸ‘₯Big Idea 3: Evaluate Multiple Perspectives
πŸ’‘Big Idea 4: Synthesize Ideas
πŸ—£Big Idea 5: Team, Transform, and Transmit
✏️Frequently Asked Questions
πŸ“šStudy Tools
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