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). ¬†This list was also published in Carol B. MacKnight, “Teaching Critical Thinking through Online Discussions.” In Educause Quarterly, 2000

Rick W. Burkett runs the John A. Logan College Teaching and Learning Center, teaches history, and heads an educational nonprofit. He publishes blogs on a wide variety of topics, including history, teaching and learning, student success, and teaching online.

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