Questions

An important part of your discussion work will be the ability to ask questions. This will not only help you to move the discussion forward but it will also give you an opportunity to pick up on specific things other group members have said, discover more about their opinion and respond in an in-depth manner to points they have made.

It might seem like an easy part of the discussion but asking questions can be trickier than you think.

Asking questions

There are two different types of questions that can be asked. These are:

Open-ended questions

Open-ended questions prompt your listener to answer in a much more detailed way. They cannot give a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, but must be prepared to provide plenty of detail and give reasons for why they believe their opinion is the correct one.

Closed questions

Closed questions are much simpler and general require a one-word response such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Closed questions can be useful; sometimes a closed question can successfully force someone to commit to their opinion. For example:

Journalist: Do you think it was the right decision to sell your star footballer at this point in the season?

Football Manager: These are difficult decisions and the team remains strong going into the next match.

Here the manager has avoided directly answering, yes or no. You could use this technique yourself in a discussion, to avoid answering a closed question directly.

Here are some examples of other closed questions:

  • Do you think capital punishment should be abolished?
  • Do you think there is too much crime in London?
  • Do you think graffiti is wrong?
  • If you had a choice, would you wear school uniform?

Here are examples of how you could ask the same questions in a more open-ended way that would require more detailed responses:

  • Why do you think capital punishment should be abolished?
  • A recent newspaper report claimed that crime in London is on the rise. Why do you think this might be the case?
  • Some people claim that graffiti is a legitimate form of street art. Do you agree with this and can you give your reasons why/why not?
  • Why do you think we pupils should be given a choice about school uniform?

Remember

If you ask open-ended questions, you will be given more information to comment on. At the same time, if you are asked a question you must give as much detail as you can in your answer.