Sometimes in our hurry to encourage students to find information for their debate, we forget the importance of asking questions first.
Over the past few years, we've been trying different ways to help students come to understand a topic more deeply. We found that students often want to rush in to write their debate without first having a real grasp or big picture overview of their topic and what's really involved.
Asking students to consider the who, what, where, when, how and why of their topic can be really useful in helping them delve deeper. Asking questions about their topic may lead them to information, ideas or perspectives they may not have considered if they are just searching for information related to what they already know. We also find that encouraging students to ask questions before starting research helps them focus on what they want to find out and what they don't know. Without that focus, students often end up browsing aimlessly and not really knowing where to start, or what to search for if they get stuck finding information. The picture below (from Wabi Sabi Learning) shows some of the questions that may be relevant to a topic. You may need to discuss with students how to apply these questions to their topic and which ones are relevant. Just pick one or two questions from a few categories (who, what, where, when, how, why), otherwise it becomes overwhelming.
A common example of where the questions are helpful is when students haven't actually thought about everyone (who) that may be affected by the topic. Who are the "stakeholders" or people with a vested interest? How will it affect different groups in the community? Having students use questions in their brainstorms and explorations of a topic can definitely lead to a deeper understanding.