Crafting your STEM Education Research Question

Workshop Summary

Federal grants supporting new educational initiatives typically require a blend of implementation and research. Where evaluation focuses on the effectiveness or success of the implementation, the research components focus on more generalizable learning. In this workshop, we will focus on tools to identify research questions and develop research plans to answer them. You will work in pairs to give one another feedback, which will also provide lots of opportunities to get to know other participants.

Learn about the whole fall series here:

Goals of the Workshop

The goals of this workshop are:

  1. Participants will learn how to use management tools (gap, SWOT, etc.) to identify research questions
  2. Participants will apply new tools to their own proposals and collaboratively provide feedback to hone specific questions
  3. Participants will learn how to craft a research plan based upon specific, answerable research questions
  4. Participants will be better equipped to draft a successful grant proposal

Tentative Schedule

  1. Introductions & networking (30 minutes)
  2. How to read a grant solicitation and outline a grant (20 minutes)
  3. Brainstorming research questions for sample project (30 minutes)
  4. What makes a good research question? (30 minutes)
  5. Gap analysis – what are your research questions? what are your hypotheses? (75 minutes)
  6. SWOT analysis – how can you answer them? (75 minutes)
  7. Grant writing next steps (25 minutes)

Note: Breaks not shown


Enrollment is free and is limited to 20 participants per workshop. It is our hope that the small workshop size will facilitate networking and promote collaboration across institutions by individuals who share common interests in research and education.

Participation priority is for current HSI faculty and staff who a) teach undergraduate STEM courses or b) conduct research on STEM education. Non-HSI faculty staff who teach undergraduate STEM courses or conduct research on STEM education are eligible to apply if they: 1) currently collaborate as PIs/co-PIs on a funded or pending NSF EHR/DUE grant that includes HSI faculty/staff as PI/co-PIs or 2) would like to network to find HSI partners for future collaborative projects in education or research.

Admission priority is for faculty within the first 10 years of their first academic tenure-track appointment. Applicants should be aware that the selection process strives for diverse geographical and institutional representation. The selection decision is final and summary reviews are not provided.

Apply Here

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to…

  1. Use a gap analysis to identify a focus for their grant proposal’s research
  2. Use a SWOT analysis to identify the best route for answering a grant proposal’s research questions
  3. Design specific and answerable research questions
  4. Identify potential sources of baseline data
  5. Build a research plan around the proposed research questions

Workshop Details

  • Workshop Description

    Gain insight into what makes a good research question. Using tools such as a gap and SWOT analysis, we will develop the tools necessary to identify your grant’s core research topic and then hone a set of clear and grant-appropriate research questions.

  • Workshop Dates:

    November 11, 2022

    9-11am PST

  • Who should attend?

    Faculty and staff who are writing or planning to write grant proposals for any federal agency should attend, although the session will primarily focus on the NSF’s HSI solicitations. No prior experience or background in specific research methods is necessary. Please come prepared with a 1-page summary of your proposed idea and the relevant solicitation or request for proposals.

    In the past, most attendees have come from STEM departments. We particularly encourage attendance by scholars in social science or education who are looking for partners in a STEM department – there will be opportunities to network.

  • Cost

    The workshop is free to all attendees

  • Flyer

Workshop Speakers

Rebecca Joy Norlander, Researcher, Knology

Pronouns: she/ her/ hers
Dr. Norlander is a researcher at Knology with a background in qualitative research design and expertise in human rights education. She leads Knology’s Culture research, which focuses on the ways that cultural participation and practices advance social good. Using her doctorate in Human Science, she combines theory and practice to explore how people work to change structural norms and advance rights-based systems. She also serves on the National Library of Medicine Training and Education Center Advisory Board, supporting the National Institutes of Health ‘All of Us’ research program. Her current research interests focus on developing health education resources and strategies for informal education settings. She has worked on a dozen NSF-funded STEM education research projects and prepared many federal grants.

Dr. Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein, Researcher, Knology

Pronouns: she/ her/ hers or they/ them/ theirs
Dr. Barchas-Lichtenstein
 is a linguistic anthropologist who leads Knology’s Media research, as well as a core member of the Society for Linguistic Anthropology’s Committee on Language and Social Justice. Her work focuses on how media circulates, and what that means for questions of both learning and representation. She is Co-PI of Meaningful Math, a 4-year NSF-funded collaboration between PBS NewsHour and Knology and she has been named research personnel on over half a dozen additional federal grants.

Dr. Rupu Gupta, Researcher, Knology

Dr. Gupta is a conservation psychologist, trained in applied social psychology with an expertise in mixed-methods research methodologies and data analysis. She leads Knology’s Biosphere research, focusing on inclusive practices in the environmental movement, community resilience, and culturally responsive evaluation. She is a lead researcher on STEM Matters, a 5-year NSF-funded research initiative exploring the role of zoos and aquariums in STEM learning, and has been named research personnel on over half a dozen additional federal grants.

Workshop Sponsors and External Links

Logo - National Science FoundationLogo - HSI Stem Hub

Workshop Attendees

November 11, 2022

  • Monika Neda – Professor and Interim Associate Dean for Research, University of Nevada Las Vegas
  • Dimah Dera – Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Elizabeth Dvorsky – Professor/PI, UPR Rio Piedras
  • Yufeng Wei – Associate Professor, New Jersey City University
  • Faiza Peetz – Doctoral Lecturer, College of Staten Island/ CUNY
  • Zechun Cao – Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University-San Antonio

March 18, 2022

  • Chantale Damas – Associate Professor, QCC
  • David Quintero – Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University
  • Elizabeth Dvorsky – Professor, PI UPR- Rio Piedras
  • Faiza Peetz – Adjunct Assistant Professor, College of Staten Island
  • Gabriel Camacho – Assistant Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY
  • Ilhuiyolitzin Villicana Pedraza – Faculty, Dona Ana Community College NMSU
  • Jennifer Edmonds – Associate Professor, Nevada State College
  • Karlo Malave-Llamas – Dean / Associate Professor, UAGM-Carolina
  • Keith Schloeman – Mathematics Instructor, Chemeketa Community College
  • Marina Martinez – -NSF-HSI Grant Program, Director Saint Xavier University
  • Maryanne Long – Post-Doctoral Researcher, New Mexico State University
  • Melanie Bauer – Grant Writing Manager, Nova Southeastern University
  • Melissa Navarro – Assistant Professor, San Diego State University
  • Mohammed Yahdi – Faculty, Math Hartnell College
  • Paul Marchese – Professor, CUNY – Queensborough Community College
  • Yi Yang Assistant – Professor, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Yujuan Liu Assistant – Professor, California State University, Sacramento
  • Yulia Kumar – Lecturer, Kean University

October 29, 2021

  • Celia Jenkins – Director of Grants Management, Cochise College
  • David Quintero – Assistant Professor, San Francisco State University
  • Heather Haeger – Associate Director of Educational Research, California State University – Monterey Bay
  • Hui Cai – Assistant Professor, University of California – Merced
  • Victor Burgos – Chief Learning Officer, AMBE Academy, Inc. 501 (c)(3)
  • Tammy Castro – Professor, Bloomfield College
  • Kalynn Baldock – Assistant Professor of Agriculture, Eastern New Mexico University
  • Carolyn King – Associate Professor, Queensborough Community College – CUNY
  • Chantale Damas – Associate Professor of Physics, Queensborough Community College – CUNY
  • Ji Kim – Assistant Professor, Guttman Community College – CUNY
  • Zaira Mateo – Director of Scientific Research Center/ Faculty Biomedical Sciences, Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico
  • Elizabeth Langran – Professor of Education, Marymount University
  • Eri Bubar – Associate Professor of Physics, Marymount University
  • Matthew Loeser – Biology Instructor/ STEM Grant Director, Yakima Valley College