5W’s and H

by | May 31, 2017 | 04 Bible Study 101, How To Study

Good Bible study depends on learning to ask questions.  We “win or lose” depending on how we learn to ask questions of the text as we observe it.  Bible students frequently fall short because we assume we know more than we know, stopping as soon as we gain our first insight, exhortation or application.  Yet good Bible students are restless; they have learned not to be content with the first answer to the first question that comes to mind.

You may have been taught to create a list of questions, using the “5Ws and H” (who, what, when, where, why, how).  If you need some help learning how to use the “5Ws and H”, here are some questions to get you started.


  • … is writing? about whom? to whom?  (their nationality, cultural setting, geographic location, recent history, etc.)
  • … is he author talking about and to?
  • … is accomplishing the action?
  • … is benefiting from the action?


  • … is the author writing about overall? In this specific section?
  • … is the situation of the author and the reader?  What circumstances surround them?
  • … is the relationship between the author and the first readers?
  • … is the author’s meaning of each key word (not the modern English meaning)?
  • … is the significance of this word or phrase in this context?
  • … is the relationship between this phrase and the one before it? And the one after it?
  • … is the implication of this statement?
  • … is the the literary form the writer used (poetry, prose, parable, narrative, prophecy, history, epistle, didactic argument, discourse)?
  • … is the author’s mood: angry, excited, pleading, commanding, exhorting, encouraging…?
  • … motivated the author to write this?
  • … do I know about this author’s life that may be helpful?


  • … did the author choose this word/phrase/statement/command?
  • … did the author not say ____?
  • … did the author make this point to this audience?
  • … did the author make this statement at this point in his flow of thought?
  • … did the author write this passage?
  • … did the author move from one topic to another?
  • … is the author motivated to write this?


  • … does the author present his subject (story, logical steps, metaphor,  etc.)?
  • … does the author seek to persuade his readers?
  • … does the author expect his readers to respond?
  • … does the author relate personally to the message he is declaring?
  • … does the author introduce his subject?
  • … does the author conclude or summarize his subject?
  • … does this passage relate to the previous passage?  To what comes next?
  • … does this continue/further/change the flow of thought?
  • … was this action accomplished?
  • … does this passage change my understanding? Or add to it?
  • … did the author respond to/learn the message he is declaring?
  • … have the words changed meaning since the author wrote them?
  • … has culture changes since the author wrote this?


  • … will this situation occur?
  • … was this action accomplished?
  • … is the action taking place in relation to the rest of biblical history


  • … is the author going with this argument?
  • … does the author expect to carry his readers?
  • … have I seen this idea before in this letter?  In the New Testament? In the Old Testament?

Next: How to do a Word Study

Previous: Interpretation (How to put it all together)

Part of the Series: Bible Study 101

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