Among those tasks that have been most valuable is the entry asking students to define a research question and outline research design. Students discovered that they sometimes had less information than they needed about a problem to see how to approach it. Other students found that they needed to do some background reading to ascertain alternative approaches to a research question. Still other students uncovered problems with focus: they had selected a large question that simply could not be answered with the resources and time available to them in a year. This writing activity proved to be one of the most effective in helping students see the role of writing in the planning stages of research design.