5Ws and 1H Observation Questions

The 5Ws and 1H stand for Who, What, Where, When, Which, and How. These are questions that you should ask of the text to get answers that help in observing the text. There are many possible observation questions. We have given a non-exhaustive sample of the questions here. Review these questions to know what sort of questions you should be asking. However, you don’t need to ask all of the following questions at one time.

Questions for scenes in a passage.

Who is speaking?
Whom and/or about whom is he speaking?
Who are the main characters in this scene?
Where did (or will) this happen (Why? When?)?
Where was this said/written (where is the author) (Why?)
Why was this sentence written (What purpose?)?
Why is this said?
Why is he there?
When did/will this happen?
When did he say/do it?
What is the author doing?
What is the historical/cultural setting (as determined from the text)?
How will/did something happen? How is the truth illustrated?


Questions to interrogate entire book, passage, or scenes where possible.

Who wrote this book (author)?
What type of literature is it?
Who is the audience (who is receiving the letter)?
Where was the audience (location)?
Who are the main characters in the book? Who are the prominent characters in this passage?
How are these characters related to each other?
What are some facts about these main characters?
Who else is mentioned in the book (Why? What do we learn about them?)
What main events are described in the book?
What places are mentioned in the book?
How does the author describe the people, places and events in this book?
What glimpses does the book give into the life and character of the author?
When did the author write it? What is the approx. date (When on the timeline?) When in the author’s life did he write?
What was the occasion of his writing?
What were the circumstances of the author when he wrote?
What was the purpose for which he wrote? Why was the book written?
What is the author’s emotional tone? Is he angry, anxious, afraid, worried, sad, depressed, happy, or exhilarated?
Why does the writer express himself as he does in this book?
What is the significance in the way these things are described?
What motives lie behind the actions taken in this book?
What were the circumstances of those to whom he wrote?
What is the main theme (summary statement) of the book? In other words, what is the leading idea(s) of the book?
What is the theme (summary statement) of each chapter? What is the theme of each paragraph? Think about these questions as you read.
What crucial questions does the passage touch? This is often the theme.
What questions does the passage raise in your mind as you read it?
What is the key verse?
What are the keywords or key phrases? These are repeated words that are critical for the passage to make sense. If you remove them, the passage loses meaning. Look for these words and phrases as you read.
What is the structure of the book? Are there any apparent divisions of thought in the book? How is the book organized? Is it organized around changes in time, characters, topics, geographic location, events, or themes? Is it organized around people?
What is the major event in this book or chapter?
How is this event related to other minor events mentioned?
When do the events of this book take place?
What was happening in the world when these things happened?
What events were taking place just before and/or after the events described in this book?
Where do these events take place? List each place mentioned and find them in a good Bible atlas.