Using Questions

As a Pre-Writing and Organizational Technique

» Prewriting by questioning is a five-step process which allows you to:

  • recognize the richness and diversity of your subject (exploration);
  • gather as much information as possible about this aspect (discovery);
  • make some sense out of the body of information you've assembled (classification);
  • determine what you want to say to the reader, and the order in which you want to say it (selecting and ordering).

» Exploration begins with predictable and basic questions. Topic: teachers.

  • What makes a good teacher?
  • What makes a bad teacher?
  • What do I dislike most of all in teachers?
  • What do I like most of all in teachers?
  • What do students think of teachers?
  • How many students admire their teachers?

» Discovery occurs when the student answers the questions during brainstorming:

  • I dislike teachers who are unprepared for their classes.
  • I dislike teachers who don't know their subjects.
  • Some teachers can't communicate in sign language.
  • Some teachers sign so fast that you can't take notes.
  • I dislike disorganized teachers, for all you get is a big jumble.
  • Some teachers are closed-minded; they don't accept points of view different from their own.
  • I dislike teachers who are aloof and distant; they seem detached from their students.
  • I dislike teachers who have "pets," who show favoritism by giving certain students special consideration and privileges.
  • Some teachers let their students walk all over them and don't maintain any order or discipline in the classroom, so nobody can learn anything.

» The classification stage is an important step in analysis. The student classifies the major characteristics of his statements about teachers.

Using Questions Map


In the selecting and ordering stage, the student limits his/her discussion to two or three promising categories [personality, and closed-minded] and orders these findings into outline form or working plan, adding details to flesh in the general assertions:


  1. Introduction
    1. I dislike teachers who are closed-minded.
    2. I dislike teachers who have bad personalities.

  2. Body
    1. Some teachers are closed minded.
      1. They don't accept points of view different from their own.
      2. They don't allow free discussion of ideas in the classroom.
      3. They present only one side of an issue.
    2. Some teachers may have bad personalities.
      1. Such a teacher seems detached from his students
      2. It's hard to like him or to work for him because you feel he doesn't care about you as a person . . .

  3. Conclusion

Prewrite Request Map


Source: Adapted for English Works! 1997 from Ray Kytle, Prewriting: Strategies for Exploration and Discovery (New York: Random House, 1972), pp. 59-63.

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