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Research the problem_ED


What is the current state of the problem? How have others attempted to solve this problem? What do potential users want or need in a solution?
Understanding the work that others have done to address the problem is an essential step in the engineering design process. Students identify existing products (which can be reverse-engineered or modified as a potential solution) as well as regulatory, standards, and ethical issues that must be considered during the design process.
Common Core Standards Assessed: ELA.RST.1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9
NGSS Assessed: HS-ETS1-1 

Time To Complete 

3-5 Hours

I Can Statements 

  • I can conduct research for my engineering design challenge by:
    • Gathering relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively (6-8.WHST.8)
    • Assessing the credibility and accuracy of each source (6-8.WHST.8)
    • Recording and organizing information systematically
  • I will know my research is of high quality if it:
    • Provides me the opportunity to learn more about my topic
    • Challenges me to deepen my thinking about my topic by asking questions for clarity and understanding
    • Comes from multiple relevant, current, reliable, and varied sources, while favoring primary sources over secondary sources
    • Has been systematically recorded and organized to support the engineering design process

Suggestions for Assessing Student Readiness to Move Forward:

  • Confer with students, asking probing questions about their research process to gauge how well their research meets the quality criteria.
  • Ask students to list their sources and explain (orally or in writing) how they meet the quality criteria for high-quality research.
  • Ask students to review their notes with you, briefly describing their system for recording and organizing the results of their research.
  • Ask students to self-evaluate their work after completing one of the activities below.
Possible Activities 
  1. Have students complete the first columns of a KWL/KWHLAQ chart (http://www.flickr.com/photos/langwitches/5958295132/). If you have a set of class resources for research, have students preview the books on their topic to frontload as a scaffold. 

  2. This protocol of brainstorming and reflecting on questions is appropriate for the upper grades and visual learners: http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/researchcourse/explore.html#questions

  3. Model for students how to take notes. You can offer students several graphic organizers for note-taking, or teach them one strategy, such as Cornell. There are some middle school level resources that could easily be modified for upper- or lower- grade students. http://infotech.spsd.org/MS/ms_research_step4.html

  4. Have students complete an “I Wonder/Author Says/I Say/And So” chart: http://moormangb.ced.appstate.edu/5200_f10/unit1/author_says.pdf

  5. Reverse-engineer an existing product, taking notes and creating diagrams about the form and function of each part.

  6. Conduct user interviews or surveys. The d.school at Stanford University has several tools for gathering user information, which are listed below.


Resources for Reverse-Engineering

Conducting User Interviews

Ways to Generate Research Questions:

Citing Your Research

Note-Taking Organizers

How to Model Cornell Notes (videos)



Downloadable Resources 
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