Inquiry Resources

Social science curriculum links

Social Science Curriculum links

Science curriculum links

Science Curriculum links

Starting your Inquiry

What is a fertile question?

Good fertile questions are:

  • Open - Rather that having one definitive answer there are several different or competing answers.

  • Undermining - makes you question your basic assumptions.

  • Rich - Cannot be answered without careful and lengthy research. They are able to be broken into smaller, key questions.

  • Connected - relevant to you.

  • Charged - has an ethical dimension. That is, different people will have different views on the question. Pretend you are the judge and you need to see both sides of the story before making your final conclusion.

  • Practical - Is able to be researched given the available resources.

For example: ‘Are we better off living in New Zealand?’

This is a fertile question as it is open, undermining, rich, connected, charged, and practical.

Hint: Often fertile questions start with either of these words: should; could, are.

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Referencing your work

Reference your work

As you find information that is relevant to your inquiry, you need to record where you got the information from. This is called referencing. Each time you use a source, it is important that you say where you got that information from.

Referencing your sources of information (Bibliography)

You will be expected to keep a record of the places you go for research. You need to make sure you write your references in a particular way.

Below are some examples of how you should do this:


  • Author, Date of publication, Title (in italics or underlined), Publisher.

Example: Chapple, Geoff, 1981: The Tour, A.H & A.W Reed Ltd


  • Title of the website, URL, date of retrieval from the internet.

Example: Wiki New Zealand,, 01/05/03


  • Author, Date of Publication, “Title of Article”. Publication

Example: Reid, Tony, 22 July 1991 “The days of rage 10 years after.” Listener


  • Name of the person interviewed, type of interview, date of interview, topic of interview

Example: Mr H. Winston, face to face interview, 15/04/04, The Springbok Tour of New Zealand 1981 Television


  • Name of the person conducting the survey, “title of survey”, Survey, date survey took place,

Example: Smith, John.  “School lunch options”, Survey, 16/06/04.


  • Title of programme, channel, date

Example: Assignment - The Tour, TV One, 2001


  • Title of DVD/Video, director, date of release

Example: Blood Diamond, Edward Zwick, 2006

A good online tool to help you with your referencing is

You can use this site to enter some information about your source and it will do the hard work for you - you can then cut and paste the result into you bibliography. Choose the APA style formatting. 

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Sources of information

Primary sources are original material that is collected first hand and is usually unedited, such as interviews, surveys, news reports, blogs etc.

Secondary sources are materials others have collected from sources, such as books, feature articles in newspapers, some websites, tv programs etc.

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Planning your interview

How to conduct an interview

How to Conduct an Interview

Research and preparation are the keys to interviewing like a pro

One of the hardest skills for a young reporter to master is interviewing. It takes preparation and persistence to conduct a good interview. Follow these steps and learn how to interview like a pro!

STEP 1: Research, research, research. Then research some more. The only way to come up with good questions is to know everything there is to know about your subject.

STEP 2: Contact the person you wish to interview. Ask when a good time would be to do the interview. Be polite! Say "please" and "thank you." Try to set up the interview in person. If this isn't possible, then set up a phone/Skype interview. If this isn't possible, consider writing an email.

STEP 3: Read over your research and brainstorm a list of questions. The more specific your questions are, the better! And never ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Make your interviewee talk!

Be sure to write all your questions down in a notebook, then practice asking them with a partner. Become very familiar with your questions before you go into the interview.

STEP 4: Go prepared with:

A pencil

A notebook

A list of good questions

A recording device such as an Ipad, phone etc (always ask permission before recording an interview)

STEP 5: Be on time! Arrive at your interview with plenty of time to spare. If you’ve never been to the place where your interview is taking place, go early and scout it out. There is nothing more unprofessional than a reporter who is late.

You can also use the time you are waiting to make notes about the surroundings. You won’t remember details later, so write them down.

STEP 6: Conduct your interview in an organized, timely manner. During the interview:

Be courteous to your subject.

  • Always take time to ask for an explanation about things you don't understand.

  • Don’t be afraid of uncomfortable silences and pauses.

  • Let the interview take its natural course.

  • Look the person in the eye when asking questions.

  • Always listen carefully to the answers. Each answer could lead to more questions or include an answer to a question you haven’t asked yet. Don't ask a question that has already been answered. Your subject will know you weren't listening and be insulted.

  • Don't read through your questions one right after another like you can't wait to be finished. Conduct your interview like a conversation. One question should lead naturally into another. If you are LISTENING to the answers this will come naturally!

STEP 7: Even if you are recording an interview, take notes. Don't try to write every word said. It will slow down the interview. Just take down the highlights.

After the interview, while the details are still fresh in your mind, write everything down you can remember about the person you interviewed. Don’t forget to make note of the sounds in the background. Take note of what was happening around you. Write it all down as soon as possible.

At home, expand your notes by following up on things you learned in your interview with more research!

STEP 8: Review your research and your interview notes. Circle or highlight quotations that you think will be good for your article. Now you're ready to begin writing!

Note: Keep all evidence of your interviews so you can reference them correctly in your report!

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Planning a survey

Creating a survey via Google forms

Recording your secondary sources

Potential problems with your research

When researching you may come across a range of problem. Mostly these problems can be solved by carefully considering a way around them.

Problems with collecting your information

  • Difficulty of finding an interview

  • Dealing with too little or too much information

  • Having difficulty finding the information

  • Writing interview questions

Problems with processing information

  • Difficulties with understanding the best information from the material

  • Difficulties writing answers to the questions

Problems with organising material

  • Disorganisation

  • Not meeting deadlines

  • Losing material

For example:

If your problem is: Having difficulty finding information on the topic.

You could: Do some more background reading, discuss the topic with other students, the teacher, parents.

You will often find out that you have problems when you are researching, but it is important to preserver until you get the answers you need. If someone turns you down for an interview, have a think about other people that would be good to interview. If you get stuck, don't be afraid to ask your classmates and teachers for some help.

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How to structure your report


Your introduction should serve as a contents for your report.

●      Statement about what your report is about (i.e what is your fertile question/research topic?).

●      The points that you are going to make in order to prove your argument. They will most likely be your four key questions (these should be in the order that they will appear in the report).


Each of your 4 main paragraphs should be structured like this:

S- Statement/topic sentence: WHAT are you trying to argue?

This should be directly related to one of your key questions.

E- Evidence: WHAT supports your argument?

From you primary and secondary sources, what can you use to support your topic sentence/key question. This is where you need to reference (say where you got your information from!)

X- Explanation: HOW does your evidence support your argument?

How does your research support the argument you are trying to make?

Y- Why? WHY did you include this point and HOW does it relate to your argument?

How does this point relate to your overall topic/fertile question?


●      Restate your topic (fertile question).

●      Reiterate the points that you have made to support the arguments related to your fertile question.

●      Leave the reader with a strong final statement. This could be your view now that you have completed the research/report.

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How to write a paragraph for your report

The SEXY Paragraph Model

There are number of models for writing a body paragraph. The models are just easy ways to remember what sentences you should write to complete a paragraph. Below is the structure for the SEXY paragraph model.


The acronym SEXY is short for:

S: STATEMENT or topic sentence. This sentence should state what you are trying to argue in your paragraph.

E: EVIDENCE. Evidence is the material that you provide in support of your argument.

X: EXPLANATION. The explanation is where you explain how the evidence you provide supports your argument.

Y: WHY? Here you state why you include the points that you have and how they relate to your argument.

Let’s look in more detail at how to create a body paragraph, and investigate the sentences one by one.

The First SEXY Sentence: Statement or Topic Sentence

What you say in your first sentence should clearly introduce the topic. Written well, it should be clear from the first sentence what the paragraph is all about.

The easiest way to produce the first sentence for a body paragraph is to plainly state what it is that you think (or what you want the paragraph to discuss). Avoid writing highly complex or clever first sentences to a body paragraph. The reader can find it difficult to understand what you are saying. If they stumble at the first sentence, they will spend the rest of the paragraph exasperatedly figuring out what it is that you are trying to say.

Have a look at the topic/point sentences below. Each introduces a topic in a straightforward way:

The Spanish Civil war was particularly difficult for rural communities.

The Great Gatsby effectively reveals the hollowness of the American Dream.

The Brazilian economy has grown rapidly over the past decade.

Water is crucial for survival in Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the lead-up to Kosovo’s declaration of independence, unrest in the cities increased.

In the early scenes of the play, Romeo appears depressed and saddened.

Second Part of the SEXY Paragraph: Evidence

The second part of the body paragraph in both models is evidence. Here, using two, three, or four sentences (depending on their length), you deliver the evidence in support of the point you made in the first sentence. If you want a refresher on what evidence is for an essay, have another look at the evidence module or watch the evidence video.

For example, here is my topic sentence:

The Brazilian economy has grown rapidly over the past decade.

If I was to write a few evidence sentences following this topic sentence, I would want to present some facts and figures to illustrate how the Brazilian economy has grown. I might find an example of a particular industry, or show how cities have developed, or how the numbers of rich have increased. Any of these would be evidence.

Another Example

Consider the following point sentence:

Water is crucial for survival in Sub-Saharan Africa.

If I was going to write some evidence sentences following the point sentence, I might talk about the length of the dry season, and how limited water supplies are. I might discuss how difficult it is to survive in hot climates without water, and mention the particular regions of Sub-Saharan Africa that experience drought. For example:

… The rainy season only lasts for one month in desert areas, so gathering and keeping water is never easy. In countries like Ethiopia and Niger, droughts occur often. A drought in Ethiopia in 2011, for example, was the worst for 60 years as February rains did not come. Around 700,000 people required food aid and emergency assistance.

It didn’t take much evidence, but I have delivered it using detailed facts, and presented it in a way that leaves the reader feeling that I am knowledgeable about the topic.

The Third SEXY Element: Explanation

In this part of the paragraph, you can write a single sentence that tells the reader what your evidence shows. In doing so, you are providing an explanation for what you have just delivered as evidence.

So, for my Sub-Saharan Africa paragraph on how crucial water is, my explanation sentence might be:

With such pressing conditions the United Nations and other aid agencies frequently assist with everything from large-scale dams to small water pumps.

Or, I could have said something like:

In conditions like this, it is critical that people in the cities and towns have constant access to water supplies.


Because of these dry conditions, life expectancy without water is very short.

It does not need to be long. The explanation sentence simply needs to be thoughtful and show that you are thinking about your topic.

Final SEXY Paragraph Sentence: Why?/Link

Here, SEXY wants me to write a Why? sentence. A Why? sentence is a sentence that shows how all these things relate back to my point or my question. The final sentence I have chosen that illustrates this function is:

However, despite their efforts, the water shortages seem to persist.

Though short, the sentence shows I am thinking about the whole paragraph and what it is saying, and linking these things back to the topic of water shortages. Now read the whole paragraph, and see how the parts fit together.

Water is crucial for survival in Sub-Saharan Africa. The rainy season only lasts for one month in desert areas, so gathering and keeping water is never easy. In countries like Ethiopia and Niger, droughts occur often. A drought in Ethiopia in 2011, for example, was the worst for 60 years as February rains did not come. Around 700,000 people required food aid and emergency assistance. With such pressing conditions the United Nations and other aid agencies frequently assist with everything from large-scale dams to small water pumps. However, despite their efforts, the water shortages seem to persist.

(98 words)

Key Thing to Note

The above paragraph is 98 words long. It says a lot in those 98 words because it uses detail. Do the same thing. Facts and figures and specific information mean that you can say a lot and be economical in your words.

How to do your reference list

Planning your presentation

Presentation Tools

Powtoons -

Lucidpress -

Prezi -

Infochart/presentatations - piktochart

A variety of apps - Appappeal

Evaluating the inquiry