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  Question Types


There are a number of types of questions that learners will ask at the Secondary Layer (Information Seeking) and they include Fact finding, Evaluative, Diagnostic, and Hypothetical questions.


Fact Finding Questions:

The questioner needs to acquire some specific facts relevant to the context or issue and these questions target the acquisition of those facts.

          E.g.    “What is the capitol of New Zealand?”

                   “Who invented the light bulb?”

                   “What are some of the incidents that occurred on Captain Cook’s 3rd voyage?”


Evaluative questions:   

The questioner is seeking to identify opinion, belief or point of view.

E.g.    “What would do you think would be a good Christmas production?”

          “What do you think is an appropriate punishment for acts of terrorism?”

          “What do you believe about creation and evolution?”


Diagnostic or Comparative questions:

The questioner is trying to obtain information that will  assist them to compare two items or to make a judgement.

E.g.    “What are the similarities between ----- and -----?”

                   “What are the possible outcomes of -----?”

                   “When would be the best time to --------?”


Hypothetical questions:

The questioner asks a question bound by a range of factors to limit the possible answers to a specific context.

E.g.    “If you had to choose a goalie for a soccer team what three major skills would you look for?”

          “If we had to stop using plastic bottles what options are there for hygienic containers?”

          “What would be the possible problems if we changed the wood for plastic?”


Questions from this Secondary layer have also been identified as ‘fat’ or ‘skinny’ questions, ‘open’ and ‘closed’ questions.


Open questions:

These are often identified as questions which involve complex thinking requiring much explanation and detail in their answers. Open questions will usually contain what, why, how, or describe as their questioning words.


Closed questions:

Closed questions are often defined as questions that can be answered with a single word or a short phrase. ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘maybe’ are examples of single word answers. These questions are used to obtain specific facts.


Fat Questions:

Fat questions basically are ‘open questions’ renamed. There seems to be little to differentiate between open and fat questions.

Further information can be gained from:


Skinny questions: Skinny questions similarly seem to be just a different name for ‘closed questions’.



Bloom's Taxonomy:

Beyond this are also Question types that can be drawn from Bloom's Taxonomy (Benjamin Bloom (ed)., Taxonomy of Educational Objectives: Handbook I Cognitive Domain (New York: David McKay Co., 1956))

Below are the levels of the taxonomy, a brief explanation of each one, and examples of questions which require students to use thinking skills at each level. (Drawn from http://www.oir.uiuc.edu/Did/docs/QUESTION/quest1.htm )

  • "Knowledge - Remembering previously learned material, e.g., definitions, concepts, principles, formulas.
    • What is the definition of "verb"?
    • What is the law of supply and demand?
    • What are the stages of cell division?
  • Comprehension - Understanding the meaning of remembered material, usually demonstrated by explaining in one's own words or citing examples.
    • What are some words which are commonly used as adjectives?
    • What does the graph on page 19 mean?
    • Explain the process of digestion.
  • Application - Using information in a new context to solve a problem, to answer a question, or to perform another task. The information used may be rules, principles, formulas, theories, concepts, or procedures.
    • Using the procedures we have discussed, what would you include in a summary of Bacon's essay?
    • How does the law of supply and demand explain the current increase in fruit and vegetable prices?
    • Based on your knowledge, what statistical procedure is appropriate for this problem?
  • Analysis - Breaking a piece of material into its parts and explaining the relationship between the parts.
    • What are the major points that E. B. White used to develop the thesis of this essay?
    • What factors in the American economy are affecting the current price of steel?
    • What is the relationship of probability to statistical analysis?
  • Synthesis - Putting parts together to form a new whole, pattern or structure.
    • How might style of writing and the thesis of a given essay be related?
    • How are long-term and short-term consumer loan interest rates related to the prime rate?
    • How would you proceed if you were going to do an experiment on caloric intake?
  • Evaluation - Using a set of criteria, established by the student or specified by the instructor, to arrive at a reasoned judgment.
    • Does Hemingway use adjectives effectively to enhance his theme in The Old Man and the Sea?
    • How successful would the proposed federal income tax cut be in controlling inflation as well as decreasing unemployment?
    • How well does the Stillman Diet meet the criteria for an ideal weight reduction plan?"

Further Question Types:

There are further question types that could be identified here, with many of the definitions being contestable and debatable. What is important, is that these questions, however they are labelled, have one the primary goal which is to gain specific information that will be utilised for one or more of a range of purposes that include:


§        Gaining or deepening understanding

§        Extending knowledge

§        Improving skills

§        Defining or clarifying issues

§        Confirming facts

§        Identifying fact and opinion

§        Discerning bias or prejudice

§        Ascertaining inferences and assumptions

§        Analysing positions and theories

§        Establishing supporting argument

§        Critiquing someone else’s argument or position

§        Creating a range of options

§        Evaluating possible solutions

§        Making a decision


All of these possible uses are important aspects and skills of independent learners, but all require valid and relevant information as their base. If poor, insufficient, irrelevant or invalid information is utilised as the base for any of these learning applications the learning itself is affected and may be invalid or weak as a result. The skill of questioning is the foundation that lays the base of valid and relevant information. The skill of questioning is the foundational tool of learning, and a person who is an effective questioner has a major learning skill.



There are three major categories of questions (Rhetorical, Requests and Inquiry) used in daily life. Inquiry questions, which can be classified into two major types, are the ones that drive learning and thinking. Learners use one type of Inquiry question (Fertile, Essential, Rich and Reflective) to set the context, boundaries and direction of their learning. Learners then utilise the second type of Inquiry question to locate the information that will be the foundation of their learning. A basic skill of learning is the ability to ask good information seeking questions because relevant and valid information is the fuel of learning, understanding and problem solving.