Question the Author

Questioning the author is a strategy that engages students actively with a text. Rather than reading and taking information from a text, the QtA strategy encourages students to ask questions of the author and the text. Through forming their questions, students learn more about the text. Students learn to ask questions such as: What is the author's message? Does the author explain this clearly? How does this connect to what the author said earlier?

When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

More comprehension strategies

Why use question the author?

  • It engages students in the reading and helps to solidify their understanding of a text.
  • It teaches students to form questions to the author while reading.
  • It teaches students to critique the author's writing.


How to use question the author

Beck et al. (1997) identify specific steps you should follow during a question the author lesson. This strategy is best suited for nonfiction texts.

  1. Select a passage that is both interesting and can spur a good conversation.
  2. Decide appropriate stopping points where you think your students need to obtain a greater understanding.
  3. Create queries or questions for each stopping point.
    • What is the author trying to say?
    • Why do you think the author used the following phrase?
    • Does this make sense to you?
  4. Display a short passage to your students along with one or two queries you have designed ahead of time.
  5. Model for your students how to think through the queries.
  6. Ask students to read and work through the queries you have prepared for their readings.

Read more about question the author in these articles:

Watch: Did it Make You Laugh? Learning About the Author's Purpose

Help students understand purpose and audience in writing by modeling and providing opportunities to write a variety of writing forms. See the lesson plan.

This video is published with permission from the Balanced Literacy Diet. See many more related how-to videos with lesson plans in the Reading Comprehension Strategies section.

Collect resources

This website shows and example of using the question the author strategy with a common health-related sign that might be read by students. See example >

Language Arts

Here's a simple, clear description of how students can learn to think, "If I were the author…" See example >

Social Studies

Here's a short paper that describes how teachers can use the question the author strategy to help students make sense of social studies. Examples are given for elementary age students. See example >

Differentiated instruction

for second language learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners

  • Have students of varying abilities work together to determine answers to questions.
  • When students ask questions that go unanswered, try to restate them and encourage students to work to determine the answer.
  • Have students write or type responses to queries or create some of their own.
  • Engage students in a class discussion about responses to questions.

See the research that supports this strategy

Beck, I.L., & McKeown, M.G., Hamilton, R.L., & Kugan, L. (1997). Questioning the author: An approach for enhancing student engagement with text. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Children's books to use with this strategy

Looking for Miza

Looking for Miza

By: Craig Hatkoff
Genre: Nonfiction
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Full color photographs chronicle the search for missing mountain gorillas. It is the gorillas that find the young Miza and restore him to his family.

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangara Maathai

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangara Maathai

By: Claire Nivola
Genre: Biography, Nonfiction
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Wangari Maathai's native Kenya was a changed land, literally blowing away because its trees and growth had been destroyed. Rather than complain, she started a reforestation effort for which she was the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Handsome illustrations combine with crisp text to tell the story of one person’s impact.

Add comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
"Writing is thinking on paper. " — William Zinsser