Focus on the Question

During your academic development, you always take tests in the form of multiple choice and short essay. Sometimes depending upon the class you are in, you will take primarily essay tests. In all respects and contexts, you are asked a question. The question typically has a question mark as the ending punctuation, but some professors turn questions into mere statements for which you must still “answer.”

Regardless of the form of a question, you must have an answer. The answer must correspond to the question. A student who has not comprehended the essay question will create answers/responses that do not completely fulfill each part of the question. Some answers that do not fit the entire question but fill the space will receive some point, even if the point is minor. Any point is better than none, but this is not the “point” I wish to make.

When confronted with the comment “Focus on the Question,” your professor wants you to break down the question into answerable parts. Not only do you answer each part, i.e., discuss at least two Canterbury Tales, but also you must focus on the hidden meanings of the question and what you can infer from reading the work. What do you deduce, or what can you conclude about The Wife of Bath’s behavior and understanding of men? What are the long-term implications of her perspective? What are the contradictions? How ironic is her behavior? Is she stable? What is the context of her attitude?

After you have focused on each element of the question, all of its parts, then at the end of your essays, dedicate the last concluding section as an extended discussion to provide more of an in-depth examination of the larger implications. With this in mind, “Focus on the Question” is a four-part process:

1) Analyze the question by separating it into parts.

2) Determine how many elements the question has by circling key coordinating conjunctions such as “and” and “or.”

3) Write an answer that is formal in structure (introduction with thesis, body paragraphs, and conclusion) and that reflects your response to each element of the question. 

4) Develop an extended discussion section within the conclusion with the purpose of examining the question more extensively to discuss its larger implications.

In other words, why does the professor choose the words “why” and “what” to ask the question?  For one reason, your professor is aware that you know “who” but he or she wants you to focus on the “why” of a character’s behavior; the “why” refers to reason, cause, motive, and purpose.  In terms of “what,” the professor needs your explanation of the events, your understanding of the method The Wife of Bath uses in her tale to get what she wants. When you think about “what” think about object, thing, and way of doing something. “Focus on the Question” means that you need to understand there is more to the question than what appears to you as numbered on the page.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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