A variation of the standard essay that stresses critical thinking is the question paper. These essays are usually short (around one to two pages), but some instructors have had success using these as longer essays or even as finals. These essays consist only of questions, but there are stipulations on what kind of questions can be asked. For the strongest papers the instructor should make clear that the questions must be without a single, direct, correct answer (in other words, no plot questions). They should not be yes or no questions. They should also not be hypothetical (what-if) questions. They should be open-ended questions that lead to a discussion. They can also use various interpretive approaches as the question’s basis. Students can use these questions as discussion starters or as material to develop traditional essays later in the semester.
Here is an example for instructions for a question essay:
Discussion and study questions are designed not only to extend your understanding of the specific work under consideration, but also to allow you to make connections among the various literary texts we cover during this course. The study questions should help you focus your study of the literary work and challenge your ideas about it. Past students have looked ahead at the lesson’s study questions and written assignment before starting to read the required work, which gave them a head start on tracing the lesson’s themes and issues.
Please do not submit your answers to the study questions. If you’d like to discuss any issues raised by a question, please include your thoughts in a separate document along with your written assignment for the relevant lesson, or contact your instructor, who can answer questions before you complete the written assignment.