Five Ws  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In journalism, the Five Ws is a concept in news style, research, and in police investigations that are regarded as basics in information-gathering. It is a formula for getting the complete story on a subject. The maxim of the Five Ws is that for a report to be considered complete it must answer a checklist of five questions, each of which comprises an interrogative word:

  • Who is it about?
  • What happened?
  • When did it take place?
  • Where did it take place?
  • Why did it happen?

The principle underlying the maxim is that each question should elicit a factual answer — facts necessary to include for a report to be considered complete. Importantly, none of these questions can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no".

Hart states that "Some authorities add a sixth question, “how”, to this list, but “how to” information generally fits under what, where, or when, depending on the nature of the information."

In British education, the Five Ws are used in Key Stage 3 (age 11-14) lessons.

See also

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