These questions were originally posed by Dennis Severance, and I was introduced to them by Judy Olson as a doctoral student at the University of Michigan School of Information. They serve as a way to guide the research process and structure an argument for a presentation, paper, research proposal, etc. I’ve found them really useful and frequently go back to them as a way to critique my own writing.

  1. What is the problem? (in the theoretical debate, the world)
  2. Who cares? (an argument about its importance)
  3. What have others done? (the lit review, but pointed as an argument)
  4. What is your approach? (your general approach, the new idea)
  5. What are you going to do explicitly? (your operationalization, investigation)
  6. What will happen? (or did happen, if you have results)
  7. What does this mean? (in terms of answering the problem)
  8. Who cares? (in what way is this important)
  9. Where will you publish these results?
  10. What will you be doing in 5 years?

Cal Lee also wrote about these questions in more detail in a 2002 article on Guerrilla Electronic Records Management. I was also reminded that these questions are similar to Heilmeier’s Catechism.