Socratic Questions

Socrates Statue

Socratic Questioning Prompts

Questions for Clarification

  • What do you mean by ________?
  • What is your main point?
  • How does ________ relate to ________?
  • Could you put it another way?
  • What do you think is the main issue here?
  • Let me see if I understand you: do you mean ________ or ________?
  • Jane, could you summarize in your own words what Richard has said?
  • Richard, is that what you meant?
  • Could you give me an example?
  • Would this be an example: ________?
  • Could you explain that further?

Questions about the Initial Question or Issue

  • How can we find out?
  • What does this question assume?
  • Would ________ put the question differently?
  • Can we break this question down at all?
  • Does this question lead to other questions or issues?

Questions that Probe Assumptions

  • What are you assuming?
  • What could we assume instead?
  • You seem to be assuming ________. Do I understand you correctly?
  • How would you justify taking this for granted?
  • Is this always the case? Why do you think the assumption holds here?

Questions that Probe Reasons and Evidence

  • What would be an example?
  • Could you explain your reasons to us?
  • Are those reasons adequate?
  • Do you have any evidence for that?
  • How could we find out if that is true?

Questions that Probe Origin or Source Questions

  • Where did you get this idea?
  • Have you been influenced by media?
  • What caused you to feel this way?

Questions that Probe Implications and Consequences

  • What are you implying by that?
  • What effect would that have?
  • What is an alternative?
  • If this is the case, then what else must be true?

Questions about Viewpoints or Perspectives

  • How would other groups of people respond? Why?
  • How could you answer the objection that ___ would make?
  • Can anyone see this another way?
  • What would someone who disagrees say?

Selected questions from a list compiled by Richard Paul, in Critical Thinking:What Every Person Needs to Survive in a Rapidly Changing World (Rohnert Park, CA: Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique, 1990). ┬áThis list was also published in Carol B. MacKnight, “Teaching Critical Thinking through Online Discussions.” In Educause Quarterly, 2000