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