The 5WH Technique for Brainstorming and Research

The 5WH Technique for Brainstorming and Research

What?         Where?        Who?        When?     Why ?       How?

You can use the 5 WH technique to form questions using the words above and key words from your readings or lectures. These questions will help you to brainstorm ideas for your assignment questions and guide your research. This technique is a way of  ‘getting into the topic’ and finding out what aspects of the topic you need to research.

There are two types of information that 5WH questions can help draw out:

Type 1.          Facts

Questions that ask for facts may start with What, When, Who, and  Where.
What  is the subject of the chapter?
Where can I find more information about this topic?
Who has written the chapter?
When was it written?

Type 2.          Critical Thinking

Questions that require critical  thinking may start with Why  and
How. These questions help you to build answers to a topic and they
help you to formulate reasons for your answers.
Why has the author written this?
How does this information relate to what I already know or to my personal experience?

5WH Topic Example

Below is an example to show you how to form questions from key words.  The topic is in the form of an assignment question.  Key words have been underlined.

Eco-tourism and adventure tourism are growing sectors of the New Zealand tourism industry.  Discuss regulation of these sectors with particular regard to safety and environmental issues.

1.     Fact Finding Questions

What is eco-tourism/adventure tourism?

Who participates in eco-tourism/adventure tourism?

Where does eco-tourism/adventure tourism happen?

When  did eco-tourism/adventure tourism begin?

What are the safety issues in the regulations?

What are the environmental issues in the regulations?

2.    Critical Questions

Why are the regulation safety issues important?

Why are the regulation environmental issues important?

How do the safety issues affect adventure tourism?

How do the environmental issues affect eco-tourism?

You may find that some questions don’t make sense with some topics or that some questions ask the same thing as an earlier question that you have made up.  In these circumstances only use the questions which help you to explore the topic and understand its main aspects. Some questions will also be more important than others.

Last modified: Sunday, 8 July 2012, 02:46 AM.

6 thoughts on “The 5WH Technique for Brainstorming and Research

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    1. Indeed it does. In fact it is journalism which popularized the concept. It’s applicable almost every facet of life. We use it as our methodology at 5wh Forensic Audit.


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