You are here

What is a social inquiry? Crafting questions that lead to deeper knowledge about society and citizenship

Bronwyn E. Wood


The 2007 New Zealand curriculum introduced the idea of a “social inquiry” in the social studies curriculum. However, it appears that the nature and purpose of a social inquiry is still unclear to many teachers. The purpose of this article is to clarify what a social inquiry is, to examine its origins within the social sciences, and to consider the contribution it can make to inquiry learning. The article draws on empirical data from a secondary-school-wide local-community social inquiry. An analysis of the questions students and teachers asked in this social inquiry revealed that three broad types of learning outcomes were generated through this process: information-based, values-based, and citizenship-based outcomes. The article concludes by suggesting a number of ways social inquiry questions could be crafted to support informational and transformational/citizenship outcomes for social studies students.

Journal issue: 
Free full text: 

Purchase the full text of this article