Inquiry Question

Thesis and Argument: Answers the inquiry question with a thesis statement that is historically defensible and supported by available evidence. 

An inquiry question offers students an opportunity to develop their own response to a period based on relevant evidence. The student’s written response exemplifies their understanding of a historical period/event/subject based on available evidence.

Criteria for Developing Inquiry Questions:

  • Provide a standards-based focus and purpose for student learning
  • Deepen content knowledge
  • Foster critical thinking about significant issues in history
  • Require students to evaluate and synthesize historical evidence to form an explanation or argument
  • Allow flexibility in response --  more than one “right” answer
  • May be provocative, have an emotive force, and/or connect to students’ lives
  • Should be stated simply and clearly

Distinguishing between Explanation and Argument

Historical writing requires a historical interpretation presented through a claim-based thesis that is supported by evidence and analysis.  

Explanation -- Requires a synthesis of evidence to form a historical conclusion.

Question: What caused World War I?

Response:  Intense nationalism, militarism, and imperialism, along with the formation of alliances led European countries to battle in World War I.

Argument -- Requires taking a stand or making a judgment and defending that position with evidence and analysis.

Question: What was the most significant cause of World War I?

Response: European countries’ fervent nationalism was the most significant cause of World War I.

Reminder: Assigning an argument-based question is not necessarily better than one that asks for an explanation.