"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Whether you are interviewing someone for an article or a character for your novel, you should vary your questioning styles to gain the most valuable information. Here are four of the best type of questions to prepare.

1. Closed - These can be answered with a one or two word response, usually "yes, or "no". Generally, it is better to avoid these unless you want a precise response that you have not received using other methods. Ex: "Do you feel he is the best candidate for the position?"

2. Open - Requires a more elaborate response, giving the interviewer more details. Most closed questions can be transformed into open by adding "Why" or "How" to the beginning. Ex: "Why do you feel he is the best candidate for the position?" You can also gain more expansive information if you lead with an encouraging statement, such as "Can you explain...", "Describe...", or "Tell me the story of..."

3. Rephrasing - If you are unhappy with a response, try rephrasing or repeating to gain more information. Politicians are used to this media tactic, and will continue to evade the same question repeated several different ways. But it's a useful strategy to employ with other contacts when they have avoided the question or you would like a more detailed response.

4. Loaded or Leading - You want to avoid these type of questions at first. If you begin a question by providing the answer in the beginning, some subject will close down as they will feel you are telling them what to think.  Ex: "Don't you feel he is ill qualified to be a candidate?" However, if an interview is going nowhere fast, these questions are a good way to inspire emotional responses, and answers. Ex. "Would you agree that...", or "Is it fair/accurate to say that..."


Fanny Barnes Thornton said...

Good advice, Sylvia. It's probably a good sequence, too.
I need some information for a novel. There's nothing on the Internet, perhaps some in archives, but I can only get this first hand.
I think I'll have to put an advertisement in a local paper, because this occupation I'm interested in no longer exists. Even then, it's a long shot.
Perhaps I'll have to rethink this.

shelly said...

Excellent advice, indeed.

Hope you're having a lovely Easter.

Sylvia Ney said...

Fanny - what occupation?

CA Heaven said...


The most stupid an useless questions I hear are when the sports journalists ask "how happy are you now?" (in case if victory) and "how disappointed are you now?" (in case of loss). Do they learn this nonsense in journalist school?

Cold As Heaven

Rob-bear said...

Excellent piece on questions, Sylvia. From my experience as a journalist, I know that the better the question, the better the answer. The better the answer, the better the story.

Easter blessings and Beara hugs!

Stephsco said...

Great post. I've taken courses like this professionally and it's wonderful advice to apply to all areas of life. Helps to evade some arguments too. Well, at least to resolve them more quickly.

Hope you are enjoying the A to Z challenge! Here’s my A to Z Post on Memorable Characters

Reshma said...

Interesting post Sylvia, questioning is an art in itself.
-fellow A-Zer