Guided Inquiry Process

The guided inquiry process puts the emphasis on scientist in “student-scientist.” The primary objective of guided inquiry is to promote learning through student investigation. This material is designed to assist teachers in targeting higher-level thinking and science process skills for their students. Below, is a step-by-step explanation of the guided inquiry methodology and includes the tools to implement this project with your students (data sets, templates, diagrams and a rubric).

Teaching Methods

Inquiry, a process important at all grade levels requires students to engage in higher-level thinking skills of summarizing, analyzing, and evaluating. By providing real-world data in a classroom-friendly format, guided inquiry provides teachers with methods that support students summarizing knowledge, analyzing data, and evaluating their findings. Teachers use inquiry methods to promote learning through student investigation, following the same process used by scientists. By using data sets from working scientists, student focus their efforts on analysis and evaluation. These activities mirror scientific methods that lead to more questions and additional research (Coffman and Riggs, 2006).

The Guided Inquiry Process

Educators support student-scientists who decide on an inquiry question and describe the known concepts that support their investigation. Students record the events that occur during their investigation of data sets and analyze how to summarize this new information. Finally, students interpret new information in light of the known concepts and their inquiry question; and summarize their findings.
Guided Inquiry Diagram
Figure 1. Guided Inquiry Map, developed by Rutherford, Coffman and Marshall (EMU) and LaPorte (Michigan Sea Grant)

Guided Inquiry Steps

Follow the Guided Inquiry Map Diagram above to flow through the guided inquiry components:

  • Students work in a counter clockwise motion, beginning with writing an Inquiry Question. See: Templates and Resources below
  • Inquiry Question: Teacher or student writes an inquiry-based question.
  • Word List: Teacher or student writes words that they know or words that they may want to use to search for more information.
  • Graphic Organizer: Students connect the ideas and words using a graphic organizer. or a thinking map showing the relationship among words.
  • Hypothesis: Students write a statement about the inquiry question that is testable.
  • Websites Used: Students choose one or more websites (suggested by teacher) to test their hypothesis and record the websites used.
  • Data and Graphs: Students summarize their data by developing a table or graph.
  • Conclusion: Students analyze the results by writing a short conclusion, using a rubric.


Conceptual steps are highlighted in purple. Methodological steps are highlighted in green.

Pedagogy Inquiry-based investigation often leads to further questions that in turn, can generate more research and is how real scientific investigations occur (Harwood, 2004). Eastern Michigan University researchers and students have emphasized the analysis aspect of a scientific investigation through the development of these guided inquiry materials.


  • The Office of Education and Outreach, NOAA-GLERL (award #NA07SEC4690004 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce) supported the development of inquiry resources.
  • Eastern Michigan University

Templates and Resources



The design of the Guided Inquiry Process materials are based on the Vee Map Inquiry materials produced by educators at Eastern Michigan University, led by Professor Sandra Rutherford. The EMU-produced Vee Map materials mirror the first Vee Map, introduced by Gowin in 1977 (Novak and Gowan, 1984) that highlights the interrelationship of concepts and methods that interact during knowledge construction and analysis.

  • Sandra Rutherford, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Geoscience Education, Geography and Geology Department, Eastern Michigan University.
  • Coffman, M. and L. Riggs. 2006, The Virtual Vee Map: A Template for Internet Inquiry, Journal of College Science Teaching, September, 32-39.
  • Gurley-Dilger, L. 1992, Gowin’s Vee: Linking the lecture and the laboratory. The Science Teacher 59 (3): 50-57.
  • Roehrig, G., J.A. Luft, and M. Edwards. 2001. Versatile Vee Maps. The Science Teacher 68 (1):28-31.