Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Bergan-Roller, Heather E.

Degree Name

B.A. (Bachelor of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Biological Sciences


The types of questions that students ask can be indicative of their science knowledge. Students questions can reveal to instructors what students do or do not understand about the material, and what about the material they are interested in. We were interested in the types of questions students ask specifically in the context of an introductory, undergraduate biology class. Here, students were prompted to provide questions that they had about the material they were to study before lecture. Our research question was: what types of questions do students ask when preparing for class when given freedom to choose their resources? To answer this question, we used emergent thematic analysis to create a taxonomy of the types of questions students asked as a part of an assignment where students were asked how they prepared for that day’s lecture, and to provide a question that they had about the topic given open resources (i.e., allowed to refer to whatever resources they wanted, not just read a textbook). We found that students ask a variety of questions. Students most frequently asked questions about simple definitions and mechanisms. Students asked about malfunctions in biological systems least often. Understanding the types of questions students ask will serve as one piece that will help instructors guide their students on how to effectively prepare for class and understand biological concepts.


41 pages




Northern Illinois University

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