How to Write a Discussion Question for Your College English Course

Your instructor asked you to write two or three questions to discuss the next time your class meets.  What do you do so you don’t embarrass yourself?


Ask what a word means.

That’s what the dictionary is for.  There is nothing for the class to discuss here, just an opportunity for you to learn how to access the OED from your school’s library database.

Ask a “yes” or “no” question.

The key part of “discussion question” is the idea that it allows for a conversation to take place.  Try to ask an open-ended question that has no immediately obvious answer.

Ask something offensive.

You may think that you’re bringing up relevant issues of gender, race, etc., but be careful  how you phrase your question.  If you ask “Are women inherently inferior to men?” the answer is obviously no–but now your classmates and your instructor are wondering why you thought this was a valid question in the first place.

Reuse a question from the book.

If your book chapter ends with discussion questions, don’t copy them or rephrase them for your assignment.  Your instructor wants to see that you put some effort into this assignment.  They also want you to ask questions you are interested in, not what you think the author of the chapter is interested in.


Ask a question that will engage your class.

Ask an open-ended question that could elicit differing responses.  If you ask “Is pollution bad?” most people will say “yes” and the conversation will end.  Think of your question as a way to start small talk at  a party.  You don’t ask “How are you?” and have the person reply “Good.”  You ask something they have to answer with at least a sentence.

Try to reference the text.

If you’re unsure where to start, you can quote a sentence from the text and ask your class to engage with it.

Come up with alternatives.

If you’re all expected to come up with questions, someone else (or three other people) may have asked your question before the instructor calls on you for your contribution.  If you write more than is required, you can offer something original instead of awkwardly mumbling that Maria took your question already.

Krysta 64


6 thoughts on “How to Write a Discussion Question for Your College English Course

  1. TeacherofYA says:

    I have to write an autobiargument paper…essentially a paper with persuasion and argument about why something in my life is the way it is. Mostly the prompts were about my major, and what made me choose it, but I’m having a hard time actually making an “argument” out of it. I discuss how I never wanted to be a teacher, and that I decided to do it after multiple career paths that failed…but where’s the argument? I’m having a rough time with that, as it’s supposed to be my thesis. I have everything else done in my rough draft but that. It’s due on Tuesday. Do you have any advice for me?


    • Krysta says:

      It sounds like you already have the germs of a thesis and you just have to bring it out. You said that you chose your major after others failed. If I were writing this paper, I’d ask myself why they failed, what made me choose teaching/why I thought choosing teaching would be different or more successful,and what I hoped to get out or accomplish from the major I was in. My writing process generally involves asking myself a series of questions and then continually questioning my own answers. So if I answer “A” to myself I then ask “But why ‘A'”? Other people have told me that this method drives them insane, however.

      Maybe other readers have thoughts about their own writing processes?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. rantandraveaboutbooks says:

    I completely agree. Good advice! When I applied to Temple University, I had to write about why I chose accounting as my major and I applied the same concepts to my thesis structured argument. I went into the negative and positive things that happened up until that point that led me to my choice and it was well received. Good luck, Stephanie!🙂 Also, great post, Krysta!


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