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Funnel Questioning


Techniques > Questioning > Funnel Questioning

Increasing detail | Decreasing detail | See also


Funnel questioning seeks further information either that goes into more specific detail or becomes more general.


More information about more topics.

Less information about specific topics

<== Decreasing detail

More information about fewer topics.

Less information about more topics.




Increasing detail ==>

Increasing detail

You can use questions to find out increasing detail about some particular topic of interest. This narrows the funnel, giving you more information about a smaller area.

Increasing detail is similar to deductive reasoning, where thinking goes from general to more specific.

Say 'Tell me more about'

Asking 'tell me more' is a very open and general question that also focuses the other person on a particular area, giving you more information about this. As an open request it allows the other person more leeway in what they say, and gets you more detail. This causes a slower convergence, which may not be a bad thing as it can provide richer, more accurate information.

Person: I was leaving the building and had to wait until a red truck moved before I could get to my car.

You: Tell me more about the red truck.

Person: It was a Malters truck, I think, with a long yellow stripe down the side.

You: What do you remember about the yellow stripe.

Use focus words

Using words like 'specifically', 'actually' or 'particularly' gives the person subtle direction to give you more detail in a particular direction. Use these alongside Kipling questions such as 'What', 'How' and 'When'.

You said that the person told you they were leaving. What, specifically, did they say?

When exactly did you go home?

Who in particular seemed interested in the presentation?

Decreasing detail

The reverse of narrowing the funnel is to broaden the funnel, asking questions that give you less specific information and more information about more general topics.

Decreasing detail is similar to inductive reasoning, where thinking goes from specific to more general.

Use broadening questions

Use questions that give you less detail about a small area and more information about related topics. Hence ask 'Who else', 'What else', etc.

What other things are you planning on doing?

Who else will be there?

Use process questions

Process questions ask about how things are done, asking for more detail about the process.

How does that work in practice?

What's the theory behind this?

Use vague questions

You can also use vague questions. When the real purpose of the question is not clear, the other person has more leeway to answer the question in any associated way.

So what do you think?

What else?

See also

Inductive reasoning, Deductive reasoning, Probing, Chunking questions

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