Academic Writing: “Why? What? How?”

Journalists often refer to the 5 W’s that create the foundation of a news reporter’s story. These are the fundamental questions upon which you build a narrative or report: Why? What? Who? When? Where?


For the sake of planning and writing your summary, we can distil these down to three:Why? What? How? You will be combining Who, When and Where in to the How of your evidence. So bear these three questions in mind as you start to develop your summary.


Why? What? How?


The summary of your essay should contain a couple of sentences describing your ’thesis’, then a third sentence that states the significance of your point-of-view, or position. These sentences will be the signposts to readers of where the journey will take them as they explore your idea. This is where you are telling readers “why” they should be interested in what they are going to read.


Your next sentence should begin to describe “what” you will address and “how”. For example, it might be something like “To be satisfied by my assertion, the first thing readers needs to know is . . .” Then state that thing. Follow this up with two other pieces of evidence to support your argument. Continue until you’ve planned your essay.


This plan should automatically lead you through some initial answers to those fundamental questions of “why”, “what” and “how”. This is not a fixed plan. It is flexible, and as you develop your argument and your essay, it should evolve.


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