75 Questions to Ask When Analyzing a Work of Fiction


This very flexible, printable resource has a variety of uses in the English classroom as an aid for literary study.

Essentially, what we have here is “only a list of questions” but these questions are doing a number of jobs: modeling the process of meaningful literary analysis, demonstrating the complexity and diversity of approaches to literary studies, providing structured choice to students, anchoring and focusing the reading process, and ensuring reading comprehension.

The questions are divided into five sections that match the typical ways literature is discussed at the college level: Character | Plot | Literary Elements | Theme | Context & Connections

Each section pushes students a little further toward critical,conceptual and connective thinking.

A Few Ways to Use These Questions:

Provide the questions to students as the basis for student-led class discussion. Ask students to select one question from a specific section, given them a few minutes to think of an answer, then take a few minutes to for students to share their responses. Repeat the process and move through each section of questions as appropriate.

Put students into small groups and ask them to select two or three question from each section to answer. After answering the questions, groups can share their choice of questions and their responses with the rest of the class.

After reading a work of fiction (or after reading a chapter or section of a work), ask students to review the list of questions and identify the two most relevant or applicable questions in each section. Have students defend their choices based on details from the text. (You can also ask students to select the least relevant questions and defend their choices in this process as well.)

Group Writing:
Put students into small groups and ask each group to create a brief study guide for the work of fiction being discussed in class. The study guide might take the form of a bullet point set of notes responding to selected questions in each section.

Short Writing:
Ask students to select one question from each section and provide a brief written response (one or two paragraphs) for each question. Encourage or require students to cite from the text to support their responses to each selected question.

Essay Writing:
After assigning an essay on the text, suggest that students use the specific questions to use as the basis for body paragraphs in the essay. This method should help students generate relevant material for the essay. An emphasis on questions from the Theme and Literary Elements sections should also help to focus the material on analysis instead of summary.

Reading/Study Aid:
Use the questions as a way to focus the way students read the text by providing the list of questions to students when first introducing the work of fiction to be studied. Suggest that students review the list of questions periodically as they make their way through the novel, story or play. In this way, the questions become tips for what to look for when reading and analyzing a work of fiction.

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