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Everything happens in time, and the question of "when" locates events in time. On the most superficial level, this could mean just giving a date and time: 2:59 p.m., Thursday, July 12, 1996. In most writing, however, such exact fixing of time isn't necessary. "One rainy winter morning just before breakfast" may set the time nicely for one piece, while "Easter Sunday when I was thirteen years old" might do the job for another. When can also be used to show relationships in time, as when we say, "Before stepping up to the ticket booth, I stretched a little to make myself look taller." Like the other questions, "when" can be subdivided into subtopics that may help you uncover further possibilities for exploration.


Subtopics of When

When did this happen?
How often does it happen?
When had it happened previously?
When will it happen again?
Why didn't it happen at some other time?
What conditions must be met in order for it to happen?
What happened before this?
What happened after this?
What else was happening at the same time?
How would this have been different if it had happened at some other time?
How is it similar to things that have happened at other times?
Was this good or a bad time for it to happen?
When was it first noticed and last observed?
What were the characteristics of the time?
How long did it last?


It's hard to imagine a paper that would use all or even most of these questions. Still, this list should give you an idea of how the question of "when" can help you discover what to say.