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How to Choose the Right Question?

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One advantage of moving up the education path, going from Primary to High school and then tertiary education, is the increasing flexibility we have in essays and exam questions. We get to choose at least  some of the subjects that we study, out of interest or potential usefulness. And even in the compulsory subjects we have some choice about which essay question to answer and which novel to focus on. By the time we reach university we can even propose our own question. But while this might seem an easy option for a young student, being able to set your own question, it is actually tricky. It means finding some original approach to the subject, and not simply explaining or debating the conventional ideas. You have to understand a question well in order to know how to ask the right question(s).

Find the Question You would like Answered.

Do you wonder why the author of a novel decided to have a such a self-centred or unlikable protagonist, or what the point was to some philosophical speculation? Well, if everything made perfect sense we wouldn’t need to ask questions. Finding out why something is a certain way, why it was done a certain way, or even why something was left out, is often the point in research. There is potential in essays that take this approach.

Don’t make the mistake of painting yourself in a corner, and finding that you end up without an answer or at least some worthwhile insight. You will need a conclusion that makes sense, even if it means pointing out that the author of that old novel came from a time when attitudes were different and lacked an idea that we now find self-evident.

Never Take the First Offer

There are some obvious essay questions. These are the ones that everybody else will write about. You will have a difficult time standing out and getting a good grade if you do the same thing as most other people, though this occasionally does work.

Write down the obvious ideas to get them out of your head, and then look for original ideas, or at least something unorthodox and out of the box. But make sure it is an essay concept that you can actually do something with. It is okay to take a few risks when considering ideas, but when you write the essay go with something that you know will work.

Look at the Significant and the Ordinary.

We tend to remember the unusual and important events more than the ordinary, even though the ordinary occurs far more often. We remember the two times we were late, but not the 200 times we were on time. Our analysis of History, Art, English, Philosophy or any subject should bear this in mind. Philosopher Emerson was best understood in contrast to the philosophy of his time, because he was radically different and took the subject in a new direction. Today his ideas might seem obvious today, so discussion can seem blase, but contrasting this with his contemporaries shows how radical he was at the time, and how we now have the ideas today because of his influence. Likewise, Shakespeare was radical when compared to the other playwrights of his day, something often overlooked.

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The Greater freedom in advanced education means the students must take more responsibility. Tutoring can help develop the individual for independence.

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