How to Write a Discussion Board Post Question That Provokes a Debate
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How to Write a Discussion Board Post Question That Provokes a Debate

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Samantha W.
Apr 16, 2024
11 min

The Art of Provocation: Writing Effective Discussion Questions

In the digital age, when everyone is obsessed with social media and commenting on whatever they come across, it seems that crafting a discussion question is a no-brainer.
Just pick some topic and simply present it — not necessarily in the question form — and you get anyone to state their opinion on it. However, that’s not how discussion questions work.
After all, the question carries a certain task. In the classroom, you can easily ask a question and then master the course of the discussion with the follow-ups. The question for an online discussion board must be thought-provoking from the start so that fellow peers will get engaged from the get-go.
And you can easily do that if you know how to write a good discussion question, for example:
Is globalization heading in the wrong direction?
While globalization allows businesses to reach new markets and spread knowledge and technology, it can also lead to labor imbalance, domestic job loss, and cultural conflicts.

The Question to Begin Discussion With: What Are Discussion Questions?

What Are Discussion Questions.webp
The primitive approach to studying is simply to learn some facts and go on with that knowledge. But there’s so much more to studying.
While we learn something new, we form an opinion on this or that matter. That’s where discussion questions come in handy, allowing us not only to showcase our knowledge of the subject but also to exchange our opinions and provide supporting evidence to solidify them.
Thus, the question should focus on the subject matter but be open-ended.
Aside from allowing us to explain things ourselves instead of just repeating what we’ve learned, discussion questions help build a community among us. Those who prefer engaging in public discussions will shine, while those who are meek and silent will get a chance to have their say.
Besides, discussions can show you or your peers from a side different from what is already known.
So, discussion questions:
  • Allow respondents to showcase their knowledge of the subject;
  • Give a possibility to express and exchange opinions on the subject matter;
  • Engage the participants in public discussion.
Now that you know the purpose of discussion questions, it shouldn’t be that difficult to master them. But don’t worry; we are not going to leave you here just with that information or the “write my discussion post for me” thought. We have enough tips and tricks for you below.

What Are Good Discussion Board Post Questions, and Where to Find Them?

Obviously, not every question can spark a discussion. Moreover, not every discussion question can do that.
Let’s take the example we’ve provided above: “Is globalization heading in the wrong direction?”
Ask yourself: can this question start a discussion? On the surface level, it can; it is open-ended, after all. But, at the same time, what prevents your peers from providing the same answer as we showed in the example?
The thing is, they have to expand on every point in that answer:
How does globalization allow businesses to reach new markets?
How does it lead to labor imbalance?
Why does globalization lead to cultural conflicts?
When it comes to good discussion questions, they are not only open-ended; they must be on the subject broad enough that it eliminates the mere possibility of a short and simple answer.
The example with globalization surely will spark a debate, as there are opponents and proponents of it among your fellow students.
And they are surely going to discuss each and every aspect of globalization, arguing, expressing their opinions, and supporting their claims with evidence.
And each aspect can kickstart a new series of questions and discussions.

How to Create Discussion Board Post Questions: The Main Dos and Don’ts

So, how to make discussion questions aside from minding the broad subject and keeping them open-ended?
You need to keep in mind that a discussion question must make prospective respondents analyze the subject, form their opinion on it, and be able to defend the said opinion.
So, the ideal one should:
  • Require thorough analysis of the subject;
  • Allow to form an opinion on the matter;
  • Encourage the dialogue.
There’s one crucial point about encouragement. The best way to cause a discussion is to opt for questions that trigger emotions; however, you should avoid questions that ask how your peers feel about this or that matter.
Why? Because emotions don’t require analysis of the subject. Hence, unless you have a psychology class, there’s no point asking how anyone feels about the matter. It will lead the whole discussion away from the subject.
You may think that it can be fixed with follow-ups, but the most logical follow-up would be “Why do you feel this way about …?”, which again leads to discussing the feelings, not the subject.

How to Ask Good Discussion Questions: Not Only Controversial Topics

When you’re setting up to write discussion questions, opting for controversial topics is the first thing on your mind.
What are the reasons for the prospective ban of TikTok, and should it be banned?
If that was the question you were thinking of, you nailed the task. The topic is rather controversial, and most of your peers are using the app.
And yet, it’s not the controversy that is important. Don’t forget that discussion questions aim at building a community. Hence, the first step is to know your peers.
If you want to avoid controversial topics, you can opt for questions that require comparing two things:
Which is the best novel about school bullying, “Carrie” by Stephen King or “Butter” by Erin Lange, and why?
Or, sticking with fiction, go to questions beyond the surface level of comprehension. Ask what other options this or that fictitious characters could choose and why.
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How to Formulate Discussion Questions So Your Peers Will Debate?

The preparation for the question should start before you even sit down to write one. (Or be urged to look up “who can write my papers for me” instead.)
First of all, you need to establish relationships with your peers so they are inclined to share their opinions. This way, you can ensure that they will be active participants in the discussion.
The subject should inspire the research. Or, if it’s something new, you can always pick a subject that will allow prospective respondents to use their prior knowledge.
For example, you can ask them to agree or disagree with a particular statement and use their knowledge and experience to justify their opinions.
Also, you shouldn’t forget that it’s better to be neutral with discussion questions. Avoid using gender- and race-specific phrases, which can discourage certain people from participating.

How to Start Discussion Questions? — It’s Already a Great Question

Okay, jokes aside. The most common words to start discussion questions are “What” and “How.”
If your subject is discussion questions, you already have a great question:
How to start a discussion question?
First of all, it will make prospective respondents delve into what a discussion question is, suggest why it should start this or that way, and try to prove their opinion with the knowledge they have on the subject.
What common words are used to start a discussion question, and why?
This one is not a good discussion question, as it’s rooted solely in grammar and language rules, which gives little space for expressing opinions.
But discussion questions shouldn’t necessarily start with “how” and “what.” As we pointed out previously, you can provide a certain statement and ask to agree or disagree with it.

Think Ahead How to Respond to Discussion Questions

The crucial rule about crafting the discussion question is having an approximate picture of how people will respond to it.
Not that you have to foresee the exact opinions of this or that respondent or how they are going to justify them, but you need to have a more or less proper scenario of how the discussion will unfold.
Pick the topic, think about how others will react to it, what opinions they may already have about it, and how their attitude toward the subject can develop during the discussion.
And voila, you can easily pinpoint the question.
In other words, you need to imagine the discussion and go backward to craft the question.
Needless to say, the actual discussion may not – and most likely will not — unfold the way you’ve imagined, but such mind games with oneself can really help scribe the question that will kindle the debate.

Tips on How to Answer Discussion Questions

How to Answer Discussion Questions.webp
You can get a picture of how to answer a discussion question based on the main aim of that type of question.
You need to delve into the subject matter, and after evaluating it, you need to provide your opinion and be ready to support it with evidence.
The process is not that different from the algorithm you follow to craft a bigger text (except the latter is more likely to make you ask someone to do something like “write my thesis paper for me ASAP.”)
So, if we go back to the globalization question, you need to answer what globalization is and what its main positive and negative aspects are. You should also expand on each example of the benefits and downsides.
After that, based on the facts that you’ve mentioned, you need to provide your opinion on whether globalization is heading in the right or wrong direction.
The main rule, regardless of whether you’re participating in the in-class offline or online discussion, is to be clear and concise. It may seem to be a contradiction to the previous paragraph, but no.
First, decide whether you think globalization is heading in the wrong direction or not. Select the aspects that will support your point of view and expand on them.
Mind to end your answer to keep the discussion going. Finish your answer with another thought-provoking statement or with a question that will fuel further debate.

Tips on How to Answer Questions in a Discussion Board Post

Responding to a discussion point has a bit of a different set of rules. While you also start by analyzing the question and using evidence to support your viewpoint, your response should start by acknowledging the original post.
Even if you disagree with the points provided in the post, you need to acknowledge them. In case of disagreement with them, you should opt for constructive criticism and maintain a respectful tone.
After all, the main point is to contribute to the discussion and not prove someone wrong. End your response with a statement that will keep the discussion going.

Technical Tips for Writing Discussion Questions and Answers

Now, regardless of whether you write a discussion board post or prepare a response to it, you need to keep in mind a few simple rules:
  • Your top priority is readability. Ditch long sentences and paragraphs. Break the post or response into several short paragraphs, each dedicated to a certain point. This way, your text will be easier to follow. Use bold type or italics to emphasize certain ideas.
  • Don’t forget to utilize bullet points and numbered lists, as they make the text more structured and inviting to read. Mind using hyperlinks and infographics.
  • Finally, proofread the text before posting it.

Closing Remarks on Writing Good Discussion Questions

Knowing how to create good discussion questions is crucial for organizing and managing the discussion.
Yes, there are going to be responses that will bring new ideas about the subject matter, which can, hopefully, lead to a better understanding of it.
But that web of ideas, arguments, propositions, and counterpoints can appear only when you know how to master the question that will kickstart the discussion.
Going through this blog post, you’ve learned what a discussion question is, as well as what can be considered a good point.
You’ve also learned that it all starts with knowing your peers so you can determine which subjects will work and which won’t.
You should avoid subjects that don’t provide enough space for respondents to have an opinion on them. And you should avoid using feelings respondents may have about this or that subject to form your discussion question.
Use your imagination, as imagining the prospective flow of the discussion can help you pinpoint the proper question to kickstart it.
Finally, you got acquainted with the technicalities of how to properly format the discussion board post so it will be readable and attractive to your peers.
Now, use that knowledge to start the next interesting discussion.

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To write good discussion questions, you need to know your peers and understand which subjects they find important. The question should be open-ended and prevent them from answering “yes” or “no.” It should invite them to analyze the subject and come up with their own opinion that they can support based on their knowledge of the said subject.
To write a good discussion post, you need to thoroughly research the topic before you start writing it. Make the post clear and concise so respondents will understand it properly and won’t drift away from the subject matter in their responses. Make sure that the post is readable and well-structured; use short paragraphs and bullet points.
While controversial topics can easily spark a debate, they are far from being the only or the best option for making a discussion question. You can ask to compare different theories or offer people to agree or disagree with a certain statement and support their choice with evidence, which will lead to a discussion.
There are two best ways to keep the discussion going when you reply to a question. You can end your response with another question. Alternatively, you can end your response with a thought-provoking statement. Both ways allow you to encourage further discussion after you have presented your point of view.