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Probing Questions: Types & Examples

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  • 0:00 What are Probing Questions?
  • 0:45 Probing VS Clarifying…
  • 2:25 Types of Probing Questions
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

Want someone to open up? In this lesson, we will learn about probing questions and how they are used to elicit answers that are based on critical thinking and/or personal feelings.

What Are Probing Questions?

Are you going to need more information? Are you looking to find a deeper meaning? Perhaps asking a probing question will help you get to the bottom of things. Probing questions are not just about clarifying specific details; instead, these questions dig much deeper than the surface. An effective probing question helps to get a person to talk about their personal opinions and feelings, and promotes critical thinking.

Probing questions are typically open-ended, meaning there is more than just one response. Most probing questions begin with 'what,' 'why' or 'how.' If you want the person you're asking to expand on their response, the use of the word 'exactly,' or the phrase 'can you explain further' should get you there.

Probing Questions vs Clarifying Questions

It can be argued that a clarifying question is a type of probing question because the goals of the two questions are the same - to get more information. However, a clarifying question is looking for more facts, and the answers are typically brief.

For example, let's say my friend Pam traveled to Spain over the holidays, and I wanted to find out a little more about her trip.

These are types of clarifying questions:

Q Where in Spain did you travel?

A Madrid.

Q Where did you stay in Madrid?

A Puerta del Sol.

Q How long did you stay?

A One week.

As you can see, I'm getting more information about Pam's trip, but the answers are factual, short and specific. Let's say I want to find out some interesting details about her trip. In that case, I would ask a probing question. Note how with this question, Pam's response requires her to give it some thought. The reply is not merely fact-based but instead opinion-oriented.

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