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FYW: Language, Argument, and Culture: Starting Your Research

Stasis Questions

Stasis questions (plural stases) are questions that you can use to frame an argument. There are six main types of stasis questions:

  • [Questions of] Fact/Defintion
    • Did something happen?
    • What are the facts?
    • Is there a problem/issue?
    • How did it begin and what are its causes?
    • What changed to create the problem/issue?
    • What is it?
    • What meaning does it have?
  • Causal
    • How are events/people related to one another?
    • Did ABC create or contribute to XYZ?
  • Quality (Evaluative/Evaluation/Value)
    • Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Define "good" or "bad."
    • How serious is the problem/issue?
    • Whom might it affect (stakeholders)?
    • What are the costs of solving the problem/issue?
  • Policy/Action (Future Forward)
    • Should action be taken?
    • Who should be involved in helping to solve the problem/address the issue?
    • What should be done about this problem?
    • What needs to happen to solve this problem/address this issue?
    Bonus: Jurisdictional
    • Who has the final word?
    • Who mitigates, agrees, vetoes problems over the argument?

Not all rhetorical contexts or arguments require use of all of these stasis questions, but as you can see, stasis questions make use of the "Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How" model to frame the argument around the rhetorical context.

Why Stasis Questions Help

Stasis questions set a baseline for your argument.

By reaching agreement (stasis) through asking these questions, you can establish where you may agree or disagree with someone on a given topic. Understanding the other side (or sides, plural) of an argument will help you better research and argue your own point of view effectively in the rhetorical situation for your writing.

Stasis questions cannot be answered yes/no.

The questions can be open-ended or vague in nature at times. That's okay. Stasis questions are openings for you to ask more questions. Causal questions allow you to explore inter or intra-related topics. Factual questions help establish if there's an argument that needs to be made (did it or did it not happen and what are the details?) Definition questions allow you to develop your ideas and seek out ways of knowing from other people. Policy questions can be used as a means to explore what has been done and if its worked and these questions keep your writing forward looking: how does action need to be change in the future?

Stasis questions help us explore relationships, technicalities, and context.

We sometimes forget that everything exists in a context. Asking stasis questions gives us permission to first identify the context and then ask how we ended up at the argument as it currently stands. This may mean you have to look at different disciplines, different points of view, read different types of literature (primary, secondary, tertiary), or examine historical sources. The more connections you can make between your argument--and the more questions you can answer about your argument--only help you argue better.


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Paige's MLK Example

Martin Luther King, Jr. after delivering his "I Have a Dream" Speech at the March on Washington on August 28th, 1963.

Stases Questions:


  • How many people were in attendance?
  • What was the speech/protest about?
  • What issues were addressed at the March on Washington?
  • What made the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom a "march" rather than a "protest," "demonstration," or "speaking event"?
  • What is a civil liberty, "God given freedom," or personal freedom and who defines these (yourself, others, governments, etc.)?


  • How did different communities contributing to the March on Washington affect its success?
  • Was the Walk of Freedom (the events leading up to the March on Washington) Speech the precursor to MLK Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech?[fact/definition] How did the first speech affect or influence the second?[causal]
  • Were Civil Rights legislation a direct outcome of this event? What were some of the pressures that led a change in policy/legislation? (Could be also value or definition)


  • How effective was the speech Civil Rights Movement in progressing civil rights?
  • What impact (good/bad; positive/negative; influential/irrelevant) did the speech have on MLK Jr.'s career?
  • Who were the people broadly affected by the speech and how was it interpreted or internalized?
  • How do issues of civil rights and liberties affect minority and majority groups?


  • How should policies be resolved when civil liberties are at stake? Legislation? Amendments? Individuals?
  • Who should be involved in policy making for a diverse group of individuals?


Research Questions:

  1. Despite the juxtaposed anonymity of the crowd and the known speaker, how do visuals of crowds photographed at a historically political events/speeches have power?
  2. What were the impacts/significance of photographing crowds during the Civil Rights Movement?
  3. How have dominant (i.e., majority) groups rallied behind issues experienced by minority groups to address civil liberty issues? (Examples: LGBTQ+ Rights, Abortion Law, Gerrymandering, Censorship)
  • How did cisgender men, who are the dominant gender in the patriarchal system of American Politics, contribute to the success and/or organization of the Women's March of January 2017?

Tools & Tutorials

If you're having trouble getting your ideas going, try reading a few encyclopedia articles.  Look for keywords in the article and the different ways it's described there.  Also check out the Reference List or Works Cited for more information on topic.

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