How to Answer and Elaborate on Open-Ended Questions Effectively (Page 3)
(A-Level, Basic Writing Skill)
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Techniques to Elaborate on Your Answers
There are several techniques you can use to elaborate on an answer to an open-ended question. In this lesson, you will learn to frame the issue or paraphrase the question; provide descriptions, examples, and illustrations; include anecdotes; and define terms.
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This is important to keep in mind: You do not need to use every technique every time you answer an open-ended question. You can use one or more of them depending on the question and the situation. Let’s examine each technique, including some examples.
(Note. The example sentences and paragraphs on these pages are intended for instructional purposes only. While we strive to provide accurate information, the examples may not be entirely accurate or up-to-date. We strongly encourage our users to seek out their own additional sources of information on any topics they are interested in.)
Strategy 1. Frame the Issue or Paraphrase the Question
One good way to begin elaborating on your answer is to frame the issue or paraphrase the question to introduce your answer. This can help you focus your thoughts and clarify your response to your readers.
To frame an issue means that you explain or describe the situation or condition where the topic happens. You explain the background.
To paraphrase means that you put the question in your own words. You do not just repeat the question but say it using different words.
Question: Why should children learn how to use computers when they are very young?
Because using a computer is an important skill in today’s world.
Elaboration by paraphrasing the question:
Children should learn how to use computers when they are young because using a computer is an important skill in today’s world.
Elaboration by framing the issue first:
Computers are everywhere. You need to know how to use a computer at work. You can learn better when you use computers to help you. You can communicate with your family and friends using a computer. Children should learn how to use computers when they are young because using a computer is an important skill in today’s world.
Strategy 2. Provide Descriptions, Examples, and Illustrations
When answering open-ended questions, you can use specific details such as descriptions, examples, and illustrations to support your answer. This not only helps you explain your answer more thoroughly but also keeps your readers interested and engaged in your writing. (This works when you answer questions while speaking, too.)
Question: Why is it important to vote?
Voting is important because you can make things change for the better in your country.
Elaboration by providing an example:
Voting is important because it you participate in political process and can make things change for the better in your country. For example, people are worried about the environment and want your government to take action on climate change. If you do not vote, nothing will change. If you vote for people who are also worried about the environment and climate change, maybe they can do something about it. You cannot change it alone. You need to vote for people to represent you in the government.
Strategy 3. Include Anecdotes If Appropriate for the Writing Context
Using anecdotes can be a powerful way to illustrate your points and make your answer more memorable. However, it is important to use anecdotes only when appropriate for the writing context. In academic writing, for example, you should use personal anecdotes sparingly. If you are taking a college course, you should ask your instructor whether or not using first-person accounts are acceptable in assignments and essays.
Question: How can diet and exercise improve our health?
Diet and exercise helps you stay healthy. Eating well and exercising can also prevent chronic diseases and make you feel better.
Elaboration including anecdotal evidence:
Diet and exercise helps you stay healthy. Eating well and exercising can also prevent chronic diseases and make you feel better. I try to eat well and exercise everyday. When I do not do that, I feel tired and I don’t have a lot of energy. When I eat well and exercise again, I start feeling better and I can work and play harder.
Strategy 4. Include definitions of terms
Open-ended questions often ask for a definition. Even when they do not, however, sometimes you can elaborate on an answer by including definitions of terms that appear in the answer.
Question: What makes your national flag beautiful? Describe it.
I think my country’s flag is beautiful because it is very simple. It is blue and has five white stars in the top left corner.
Elaboration including definition of terms:
I think my country’s flag is beautiful because it is very simple. It is blue and has five white stars in the top left corner.A national flag represents a whole country. People are proud of their national flags because they represent the people, culture, and history of the country. That is why everyone thinks their flag is beautiful.
Up Next: Combining Multiple Techniques
Continue the lesson to learn about combining techniques.