3.d.

What Makes a Question Good?


To prepare any facet of the academic process, be it class discussion, leading class, or composing a paper, you need to be able to formulate for yourself some good critical questions. "Critical," in this sense, of course, does not mean "mean-spirited" but "analytical."

Since there are many types of questions which produce a variety of answers, it would be helpful to go over the difference between a "critical" question and a "simple" question:

1. A simple question...

can be answered with a "yes" or "no" (this is not helpful when trying to elicit further questions, discussion, or analysis).
contain the answers within themselves.
can only be answered by a fact, or a series of facts

2. There are also questions which are concerned with morals or values, in the nature of "how do you feel about this text?" While these types of questions often produce interesting discussion (and students therefore tend to like them very much) they have nothing to do with a critical analysis of the text itself, which very often was not written with students in mind as the ideal audience.

3. A critical question...

leads to more questions
provokes discussion.
concerns itself with audience and authorial intent
derives from a critical or careful reading of the text, using the hermeutic of suspicion
addresses or ties in wider issues or hermeneutical strategies
moves you out of your own frame of reference ("what does this mean in our context?" to your author's ("what was the author trying to convey when he/she wrote this? how would the audience have responded?")

Here are some sample questions. What makes them useful or not so useful?