What if …

Time required: Short-Medium

Grading: Not required 

Disciplines:  All

Why: To support writing, creative critical thinking and practice providing support for an argument or position 


  • Describe a problem, situation, or scenario to students and provide any helpful background information as needed.
  • Ask students to respond to a “what if” question which changes a variable, assumption, or outcome.
  • Examples
    • What if genes never mutated?
    • What if we used a base 4 number system?
    • What if Abraham Lincoln had survived?
    • What if a culture had written language but no oral language?
  • Be very clear about your expectations for the support of responses – for example, direct ties to course material or outside research. 


  • The required support can be as rigorous or as wide open as you like.
  • What If can be used in small groups after a pre-write or on discussion boards.

Adapted from The WAC Clearinghouse  

For more tips visit Writing Resources for LCC Faculty