- Academic Research and Writing Tips / Tutorial

The Journalistic Six or the Five W's

Often writing scares students because they feel they have nothing to write or they do not know where to begin. Asking questions is a great way to stimulate the thinking process and builds creativity in the writer. The five W's are who, what, when, where, and why. Most newspaper writers begin with the most important parts of the topic and continue in a pyramid shape to the least important. One reason for this method is the article must fit the space provided by the newspaper. The five W's can be used for essays, poetry, and other types of writing.

Journal Five W

The first "W" is who. In a mystery the reader wants to know who is behind the action. In almost any form of writing the question "Who?" can be used because there is usually a main character if not several characters. Here is an example of creating a mystery:

Who stole the diamonds? Who were involved? Who owned the diamonds? Who was murdered during the robbery? Who wanted the diamonds bad enough to steal them? Who are the suspects?
Who, simply determines who the characters are in they mystery and their role.

Another "W" that can be used in creative writing is "what". In the example of the mystery of who stole the diamonds, the following "what" questions can be asked:

What was stolen? What was done to solve the mystery? What can be done to protect the diamonds? What happened to the main characters?
Simple, what questions stimulate creativity in writing narrative essays, poetry, screen plays, etc.

Another important "W" is "when". Any narrative or mystery must tell when something happened. Consider the diamond mystery:

When was the diamonds stolen? When did the suspect leave his apartment? When did the suspects together? When did the person leave the house?

Asking questions about "when" are important in a mystery or other creative types of writing as they play an important part in organizing the writing.

The next type of questions using the five "W's" asks where. Continuing with the mystery, consider these questions:

Where were the diamonds located? Where did the thieves take the diamonds after stealing them? Where did the main characters meet to plan the diamond theft?

In almost any type of creative writing there is a "where".

An important part of life is asking why. Why's are important in creative writing. Continue with the mystery and ask these questions:

Why did the thieves want the diamonds? Why were the diamonds not protected? Why were people willing to go to prison to steal the diamonds?

Why questions establish specific reasons, solutions, and/or problems that are an important part of a mystery or other type of creative writing.

The last type of journalistic question is how. Here are some questions that could be used in the mystery:

How did it happen? How was the theft planned? How was the plan altered and how did this affect the mystery?

How questions tell how something happened and can be a tool in creative writing along with the five W's.

Using the five W's and "How" can stimulate creativity as well as helping to organize writing. If the creative writing is an essay, use the five-paragraph form. The introduction should stimulate the reader to want to read more. Use the five W's and How to write each section of the essay. Proofread the essay and then revise it as necessary. Have you answered who, what, when, where, where and why. If not, make these clear in the essay. Rewrite the essay correcting any mistakes.