5W + 1H : An Effective Approach to Collecting and Presenting Key
One of the most universally used tools for information gathering, analysis, organization and presentation is the 5W1H framework. This method is used across a range of professions, from process analysts to quality engineers to journalists, to understand and explain virtually any problem or issue. The same method can be used to organize the writing of reports, articles, white papers, and even whole books.
Ø The Basic Approach
This approach seeks to answer six basic questions in gathering information about nearly any subject: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. Sometimes, depending on the context, a second "H" might be used: How Much.
In journalism, news story writing requires that the questions to be answered take a basic form:
1. Who is it about?
2. What is it about?
3. When did it happen?
4. Where did it happen?
5. Why did it happen?
6. How did it happen?
Applying the 5W1H framework to other types of writing or investigation takes some interpretation. The order in which the answers to the questions is presented may vary, but the "what" is usually addressed first.
In journalism, the "what" identifies an event and is often stated in the "lead (or lede)," the first paragraph of a news story. The "what" is the primary subject, the reason the information is being gathered and presented. Apart from journalism, it may be stated in a title and in a purpose statement. The "what" may need to be defined, a process that may comprise the remainder of a document.
Example : What, specifically,...?
A news story identifies who an event involves. The "who" may be part of the lede, and could be the reason the story is news worthy. In other contexts, the "who" identifies the persons or groups the "what" concerns. It might describe the audience of a document, or those who are affected by a policy, process or procedure.
Example : Who benefits?
A key part of a news story is describing when an event happened. Answering the "when" indicates any time sensitivity related to the "what." It may be part of an instruction regarding the proper point at which a action should be taken. Sometimes it may be part of an "If...then" scenario of conditional action.
Example : When will it start/end?
A news story reports the location at which an event took place. The "where" describes a geographical or physical location of importance to the "what." At times, the where may be less important than other factors.
Example : Where are you?
The "why" is usually the most neglected of the questions in the framework. News stories often lack information from authoritative sources to explain the "why." In other contexts, the "why" may be considered irrelevant, particularly when describing a policy or procedure decreed by an organizational authority. Efforts to ascertain and explain the "why" may help those affected be more accepting of any change the "what" requires.
Example : Why does that happen?
For journalists, determining how an event took place may be nearly as challenging as explaining the "why," although more effort is usually put to satisfying the question. When describing policies, processes or procedures, the how may be the most important part of the effort. A considerable appetite for understanding how to do something can be found across audiences. Sometimes effort focuses on the "what" when more work should be devoted to explaining the "how."
Example : How much?
The 5W1H framework can be applied to any topic at any level of granularity to gather, analyze and present information from the simplest to the most complex. Attributed to a Rudyard Kipling poem, 5W1H is the place to start and may be enough to take you to the finish.
Yes No Question
Definition: An interrogative construction that expects an answer of "yes" or "no." Contrast with wh- question.
Examples and Observations:
Homer : Are you an angel?
Moe : Yes, Homer. All us angels wear Farrah slacks.
"Directing a movie is a very overrated job, we all know it. You just have to say 'yes' or 'no.' What else do you do? Nothing. 'Maestro, should this be red?' Yes. 'Green?' No. 'More extras?' Yes. 'More lipstick?' No. Yes. No. Yes. No. That's directing." (Judi Dench as Liliane La Fleur in Nine, 2009).
Principal McGee: Are you just going to stand there all day?
Sonny: No ma'am. I mean, yes ma'am. I mean, no ma'am.
Principal McGee: Well, which is it?
Sonny: Um, no ma'am.
(Eve Arden and Michael Tucci in Grease, 1978)
The yes-no question is found in three varieties: the inverted question, the typical exemplar of this kind; the inverted question offering an alternative (which may require more than a simple yes or no for an answer); and the tag question:
Are you going? (inversion)
Are you staying or going? (inversion with alternative)
You're going, aren't you? (tag)
The inverted question merely inverts the subject and the first verb of the verb phrase of the corresponding statement pattern when that verb is either a modal or an auxiliary verb or the verb be and sometimes have. The question itself may be positive or negative:
She is leaving on Wednesday.
Is she leaving on Wednesday?
. . . A positive question appears to be neutral as to the expected response--yes or no. However, a negative question seems to hold out the distinct possibility of a negative response.
Are you going? Yes/No.
Aren't you going? No.
(Ronald Wardhaugh, Understanding English Grammar: A Linguistic Approach. Wiley-Blackwell, 2003)
"There are many different ways to format questions on a survey. Let's say you want to measure people's attitudes toward premarital sex. You could ask a simple yes-no question:
Are you in favor of premarital sex?
___ Yes ___ No
Or you could use a Likert-type scale where the question is phrased as a statement." (Annabel Ness Evans and Bryan J. Rooney, Methods in Psychological Research, 2nd ed. Sage, 2011) Also Known As: polar interrogative, polar question, bipolar question