This document contains all text in the 5 Communication and Research Skills (cars) modules

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Interrogate the question

Interrogating the question means looking at the assignment and seeing if you can extract more information from it.

This is the thinking stage. The more thinking and planning you do before you start writing, the more focused your research and writing will be.

This will help you to consider the whole question, and think about what the person marking your assignment will be looking for.

To interrogate the question, use the ‘5 Ws and 1 H.’ This means looking at the question and asking:

Who (or which), What, Where, When, Why, and How.

This will help you to go into more depth and put the question into some sort of context.

Using the example question we looked at earlier, when you apply the ‘5 Ws and 1 H’ to the assignment question, you can come up with other questions that might strengthen your focus.

For instance, you could start interrogating the question, and jotting down a few ideas such as:

  • What ‘scientific evidence’ should you focus on? From what research area? (Plant, marine, human biology?)

  • Whose evidence? Are you going to focus on research from a particular country (Australia, US, India, etc.)

  • The evolution of what exactly? (Plants, humans, other animals?)

  • Or maybe, when? Are you going to look at recent studies or earlier research, or both?

Applying the ‘5 Ws and 1 H’ to the question will help you decide on the focus and direction of your assignment and keep you on track so you don’t waste time finding information you don’t need.

This is the benefit of thinking and planning before you start writing. Spending time on planning at this stage will focus your research and you’ll be better equipped to answer the whole question.


As you've seen interrogating your

question is a core way to
unpack it...

This next activity will get you thinking

about the types of questions you will
need to ask for your assignment focus.



Use the 5W's and 1H to unpack your assignment question


Interrogate the question

Our main TASK word is to “DISCUSS”

Which of these two questions would best help to unpack our task?

1. What are the key points that need to be discussed to
address this question?

2. What are the main arguments I can make in support

of this issue?

Click here to see sample question

In the Australian Mass Media, climate change is often
described as being the rise in global temperatures.
However, some would argue that climate change is not
just about global warming. Discuss, citing examples
from the last 10 years.

Answer: 1. What are the key points that need to be discussed to

address this question?


Interrogate the question

Our TOPIC words are: Mass media, Climate change and Global warming.

Which of these two questions would best help to unpack our topic?

1. What else is climate change about besides 'global warming'?

2. How much have global temperatures risen?

Answer: 1. What else is climate change about besides 'global warming'?


Interrogate the question

Brainstorming refers to the process of
writing down anything you know or want to find
out about your topic - without judging, or trying
to refine or restrict your ideas.

Free-writing and mind mapping are two

techniques to get your creative juices flowing.


Interrogate the question

Free-writing is a pre-writing technique that can help you get ideas down your topic.

Try free-writing by jotting down anything that comes to mind on these two questions below:

What else is climate change about?

Write whatever comes to mind

Where shall I look for mass media examples?

Try not to filter your thoughts

Slide 12

Mind Maps

Mind Mapping is a way to visually organise your ideas and the relationships between them.

ACTIVITY: Brainstorming and Free Writing

Mass Media + Climate change in Australia

Examples of media portrayals to discuss

Popular documentary on global temperature changes

Climate change as global warming

Climate is also ecological collapse, weather changes

Key media outlets (last 10 years)


Once you've completed this process of

unpacking, interrogating and free writing on your
question, you will be in a much better position to
begin your research.

You would revisit this thinking and planning

process as you research and become more
informed about your essay topic.


Look for more clues

You don't have to be a great detective to find out what is expected of you.

Watch this short video to get some ideas of where to look and what to look for.

Hunt for more clues

(From How to answer assignment questions)

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