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Duration
30-60 minutes
Topic(s)
  • Current Events
  • Journalism
Grade(s)
  • 7-12

  1. Tell students that they’re going to be talking about when searching for information can be quick and easy and when it needs to be a more involved process. Ask them to brainstorm some questions they have in daily life – everything from “what’s for lunch?” to “what’s happening at school?” to “why is the sky blue?” Ask them which questions they think would be easy to answer, and which would be more difficult. 
  2. Hand out the Easy Answers? worksheet and have students pair up to find answers. (If you’re short on time, have them answer only the first or second pair of questions instead of all four.) Students should share their answers either using a Poll Everywhere interactive word cloud (the site has instructions on how to set up this easy tool), or by writing them on index cards.
  3. When students have shared their answers, look for trends. You should see relatively few and overlapping answers for questions 1 and 3, but more variety for questions 2 and 4. Explain that this is because these are fundamentally very different types of questions. Questions 1 and 3 are simple and straightforward, sometimes called thin or supporting questions. Questions 2 and 4 are more complicated to answer, sometimes called thick or compelling questions.
  4. Watch the “Quick Skim or Deep Dive?” explainer video and review the accompanying tipsheet graphic to help students further understand the different types of questions.
  5. Tell students it’s time for them to practice generating their own thick and thin questions and doing their own quick skims and deep dives. Distribute the worksheet and have students work either individually or in pairs to complete it. They will also need access to the internet to review the News or Noise? media map and conduct their research. Depending on students’ level, you may ask all students to work on the same map topic and start the question brainstorming process as a group to ensure comprehension.
  6. Have students share their answers and discuss their process, then use the questions below to continue the conversation.

  • What would happen if you were doing a research project and only asked thin questions? Thick questions?
  • What would happen if a reporter asks only thin questions? Thick questions?
  • How does the adage “strength in numbers” apply to research?
  • How can you tell when you’ve done enough research to answer a thick question?
  • Is the Google “Answer Box” a reliable source of answers for thin questions? Why or why not? Can you tell how it is generated?

Analyzing Wikipedia
Define Wikipedia and discuss why it may be both a useful and a problematic tool. Have students analyze example pages about topics they care about, ranging from things like video games to world issues or events. Then collaborate on making a class Wikipedia page about a selected topic either a real page following the official Wikipedia instructions or a simulation) and dissect the process and outcome. Would your resulting page help answer thin questions? What about thick questions? Was it created using more quick skims or deep dives?

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