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tommac
2010-Nov-29, 09:12 PM
There seems to be lots of discussion on how to ask a question that will be suitable for discussion here on Baut.

When learning in general what would someone need to know before asking a question? And when doed the question become a stupid question? ( even when people would like to tell you that there is no such thing as a stupid question)

In otherwords if you want to get an answer that is meaningful in a topic to which you are a novice ... what is some advice to follow?

Luckmeister
2010-Nov-29, 09:53 PM
I think there's a lot of discussion about it because there's no hard and fast rule -- or easy explanation. My only general suggestion is to think appropriately deeply about any question before asking it, and not make it something you could take a minute googling and find out for yourself.

danscope
2010-Nov-29, 09:58 PM
Best advice: Stop and think for a while. Compose the question, even write it down on paper. Maybe do a search and see if the topic has been ever covered on baut ( Good chance of that ). Read some of those which may help you to refine your question.
And number one: DON'T use acronyms untill you have defined them, allowing others to read, follow and learn from the thread.
That helps.... a lot.
Be polite and patient with the replies. You will find many sharp people of extraordinary experience here. Respect them. They will serve you well.

Good luck,
Dan

forrest noble
2010-Nov-29, 10:00 PM
Tommac,

The intent of the Q & A is to ask questions where your on-line research seems to be unclear. By your having this knowledge it could fill in some gaps that anyone might have concerning basic understandings.

You could even ask questions that you cannot even imagine what the answer might be, such as some of the why? questions. You might be surprised concerning some of the possible answers. I think you have the general idea of asking questions since many of your past question threads I think have been good and seemed to have interest for a number of others trying to learn this same material as well as those wishing to respond. I wouldn't bother too much about worrying about asking "stupid" questions. What might seem stupid to one person may be in reality the question of the ages, whereby tomorrows mainstream answer will become different than today's answer in some cases. In a number of cases there is also the possibility of a number of differing mainstream answers.

Just remember that only mainstream answers may be given with little conjecture acceptable concerning ATM possibilities.

Swift
2010-Nov-29, 10:08 PM
I don't even mind so much the questions that could be answered with googling. For one thing, Google can return a lot of stuff that might just confuse the person answering the question.

What I think has gotten some people in trouble are questions with hidden agendas; either they are really not interested in what they are directly asking about, but are using the question to either lead the discussion along some train of thought they have in mind, or are using the question to secretly argue a non-mainstream position.

slang
2010-Nov-29, 10:25 PM
Especially when asking a question as a novice: add context. A very short question about a topic the questioner doesn't fully understand may be ambiguous. Some key words in the short question might be understood differently by the questioner than by experts. Sometimes this seems very obvious if a follow up question does not relate to the answer at all. A bit over the top example: "How fast can a car go?" .. "Well, the speed limit here is 90 MPH"... "So, you believe rockets don't go fast. Ok".. So in this case OP meant to include rocket powered cars, and that might be obvious to him, but not to everyone else. A bit of context would have made that clear, and would have made the answer more useful too.

tommac
2010-Nov-29, 10:36 PM
What does this have to do with science? This is in regards to a class room or if in a lecture ... you cant google in a lecture. Kind of confused what this has to do with the OQ? What is the optimal way to ask a question? What is the basis to base an optimal answer to a shortly worded question?


I don't even mind so much the questions that could be answered with googling. For one thing, Google can return a lot of stuff that might just confuse the person answering the question.

What I think has gotten some people in trouble are questions with hidden agendas; either they are really not interested in what they are directly asking about, but are using the question to either lead the discussion along some train of thought they have in mind, or are using the question to secretly argue a non-mainstream position.

tommac
2010-Nov-29, 10:41 PM
Lets assume that I am in a lecture and have a question ... when is it appropriate to ask it?

Luckmeister
2010-Nov-29, 10:48 PM
I don't even mind so much the questions that could be answered with googling. For one thing, Google can return a lot of stuff that might just confuse the person answering the question.


I was using Google as an example, not suggesting that everything found there should be accepted as fact. In my comment to Tommac, I was assuming that anyone with 4000+ BAUT posts should be capable of separating the wheat from the chaff in Google.

Swift
2010-Nov-29, 11:17 PM
Lets assume that I am in a lecture and have a question ... when is it appropriate to ask it?
OK, now I'm confused. Are you asking "what is the best way to ask a question" on BAUT or in your local University?

djellison
2010-Nov-29, 11:18 PM
Easy. Pen a question in a way which shows....

You have a legitimate question
You don't already have an answer in mind (i.e. you're posing a statement of your opinion, with a question mark at the end)
You intend to listen to and process the responses ( even if they are not the answer you 'want')
You've done at least the smallest fraction of research yourself.

If you don't tick most of those boxes, legitimately, people are going to be fairly ticked off at you.

blueshift
2010-Nov-29, 11:55 PM
There seems to be lots of discussion on how to ask a question that will be suitable for discussion here on Baut.

When learning in general what would someone need to know before asking a question? And when doed the question become a stupid question? ( even when people would like to tell you that there is no such thing as a stupid question)

In otherwords if you want to get an answer that is meaningful in a topic to which you are a novice ... what is some advice to follow?Keep the question short and ask for the experiment that answers or falsifies it. Read some of antonsieb's posts. He is the best.

captain swoop
2010-Nov-30, 12:06 AM
When you ask a question listen to the answer, don't keep asking the question expecting a different answer.

PetersCreek
2010-Nov-30, 12:21 AM
What does this have to do with science? This is in regards to a class room or if in a lecture ... you cant google in a lecture. Kind of confused what this has to do with the OQ? What is the optimal way to ask a question? What is the basis to base an optimal answer to a shortly worded question?

Now you see, this is just one of the reasons your threads head south in short order. Here's the introductory statement from your OQ:


There seems to be lots of discussion on how to ask a question that will be suitable for discussion here on Baut.

...which gives the appearance of you setting the stage here on BAUT. It's true you did go on to say, "When learning in general what would someone need to know before asking a question?" but that didn't really make it clear you weren't still talking about learning in general on BAUT. Without making the scope clear, it looked like you were changing horses midstream. You could have dispensed with that statement entirely and asked a clearer, more direct question.

For instance, if you wished to limit the scope of the answers you receive, you should have made it explicit in your question, such as, "When in the classroom or a lecture, what is the best way to frame a question?" It also helps to know what you want to know. Fishing expeditions like, "What can you tell me about X?" are usually more aggravating than helpful. I might be able to tell you a million things about X but I don't have time. You probably don't either.

tommac
2010-Nov-30, 12:46 AM
I was just setting it up ... Based on my apparent inability to ask a good question ... I got to thinking what constitutes a good question in the general sense. There must be some rules or objective metrics in which to measure the validity and quality of a question.

Many lecturers, professors or salesmen always mention that there is no such thing as a dumb question ... but I have heard ( and asked ) many a dumb question in my time .... so what makes a question a good question and what makes it a bad question and what are some of the common mistakes people make when asking questions at lectures?


Now you see, this is just one of the reasons your threads head south in short order. Here's the introductory statement from your OQ:



...which gives the appearance of you setting the stage here on BAUT. It's true you did go on to say, "When learning in general what would someone need to know before asking a question?" but that didn't really make it clear you weren't still talking about learning in general on BAUT. Without making the scope clear, it looked like you were changing horses midstream. You could have dispensed with that statement entirely and asked a clearer, more direct question.

For instance, if you wished to limit the scope of the answers you receive, you should have made it explicit in your question, such as, "When in the classroom or a lecture, what is the best way to frame a question?" It also helps to know what you want to know. Fishing expeditions like, "What can you tell me about X?" are usually more aggravating than helpful. I might be able to tell you a million things about X but I don't have time. You probably don't either.

tommac
2010-Nov-30, 12:48 AM
When you ask a question listen to the answer, don't keep asking the question expecting a different answer.

hah ... so you are saying listen to any fool? How would i know when it was answered correctly and when it was answered incorrectly?

tommac
2010-Nov-30, 12:49 AM
OK, now I'm confused. Are you asking "what is the best way to ask a question" on BAUT or in your local University?

Local university or any other public forum

djellison
2010-Nov-30, 12:53 AM
hah ... so you are saying listen to any fool?

No - that's not what he said at all. Infact, your prove his point. You don't like HIS answer so you're asking the same question again. You're not listening to any answer, let alone any fool.

PetersCreek
2010-Nov-30, 01:04 AM
Many lecturers, professors or salesmen always mention that there is no such thing as a dumb question ... but I have heard ( and asked ) many a dumb question in my time

They generally say that to encourage people to ask questions, who otherwise might keep it to themselves because they think their question is dumb.


.... so what makes a question a good question and what makes it a bad question and what are some of the common mistakes people make when asking questions at lectures?

In the simplest, broadest terms, a good question communicates the information necessary for someone to give you the answer you seek. A bad question lacks such information or contains other information that interferes with giving a helpful answer. I'm guessing you wanted a more specific answer but when you ask a broad, general question, you run the risk of getting a broad general answer.

Asking what makes a question bad is akin to the "What can you tell me about X?" question I mentioned earlier. Countless things could make a question 'bad': imprecise language, irrelevant detail, loaded language, hidden agendas, and the list goes on.

tommac
2010-Nov-30, 01:13 AM
I'm guessing you wanted a more specific answer but when you ask a broad, general question, you run the risk of getting a broad general answer.

Asking what makes a question bad is akin to the "What can you tell me about X?" question I mentioned earlier. Countless things could make a question 'bad': imprecise language, irrelevant detail, loaded language, hidden agendas, and the list goes on.

Actually a pretty good answer on par with the spirit of the question

tommac
2010-Nov-30, 01:14 AM
No - that's not what he said at all. Infact, your prove his point. You don't like HIS answer so you're asking the same question again. You're not listening to any answer, let alone any fool.

I actually like his answer ... but the follow up is how do I know if the answer is correct without further probe? Is that not a valid follow up?

Hlafordlaes
2010-Nov-30, 01:30 AM
There seems to be lots of discussion on how to ask a question that will be suitable for discussion here on Baut. I haven't noticed that myself, but OK.


When learning in general what would someone need to know before asking a question? And when does the question become a stupid question? ( even when people would like to tell you that there is no such thing as a stupid question)

From one's own point of view, a good question starts with your current understanding and then seeks to either clarify if you have things straight so far, or to take the next step in understanding the topic. From others' point of view, the question should be pertinent to the domain (BAUT), as specific as you can make it, and born of true curiosity and willingness to learn.

I think the only stupid questions are the ones made before even having a second thought, off the top of one's head. There are stupid answers, too. In my case, I am working on checking my facts to avoid being corrected on things I should already know or have checked better. :eek: Even then, everyone has been most tolerant.


In other words if you want to get an answer that is meaningful in a topic to which you are a novice ... what is some advice to follow?

The best advice, IMHO, is to remember that there are some very busy, very professional people on BAUT who out of nothing more than a desire to help others spend time explaining things. Treat BAUT with the respect for the tremendous freebie gift that it is and all should be OK.

tommac
2010-Nov-30, 01:38 AM
I am talking about in a conference not on baut.


I haven't noticed that myself, but OK.



From one's own point of view, a good question starts with your current understanding and then seeks to either clarify if you have things straight so far, or to take the next step in understanding the topic. From others' point of view, the question should be pertinent to the domain (BAUT), as specific as you can make it, and born of true curiosity and willingness to learn.

I think the only stupid questions are the ones made before even having a second thought, off the top of one's head. There are stupid answers, too. In my case, I am working on checking my facts to avoid being corrected on things I should already know or have checked better. :eek: Even then, everyone has been most tolerant.



The best advice, IMHO, is to remember that there are some very busy, very professional people on BAUT who out of nothing more than a desire to help others spend time explaining things. Treat BAUT with the respect for the tremendous freebie gift that it is and all should be OK.

Hlafordlaes
2010-Nov-30, 02:02 AM
There seems to be lots of discussion on how to ask a question that will be suitable for discussion here on Baut.


I am talking about in a conference not on baut.

Moving goalposts in a discussion isn't usually a good idea if you are looking for an answer. Anyway, ditto for conferences. Just replace "BAUT" with "conference."

slang
2010-Nov-30, 02:12 AM
I am talking about in a conference not on baut.

Well then, which conference are you going to? What is the topic of the presentation that you intend to ask questions on? Apparently the generalized answers aren't good enough, so let's make it a bit more specific.

BTW, if this is not about questions on BAUT, perhaps it's a good idea to ask a moderator to move this from Feedback to a general science forum.

Swift
2010-Nov-30, 02:25 AM
BTW, if this is not about questions on BAUT, perhaps it's a good idea to ask a moderator to move this from Feedback to a general science forum.
tommac originally started this thread in Science & Technology, but it was moved to Feedback because it seemed to be about asking questions on BAUT. Since it seems that it is not (though I'm still not completely sure), I've moved it to OTB, where we have similar threads (like the one on Powerpoint).

Jens
2010-Nov-30, 02:39 AM
I am talking about in a conference not on baut.

Then it's a really complicated question and I don't see how anybody can give you a simple answer. Why do people ask questions at conferences? I can think of three major reasons, but there are probably others. (1) they are genuinely curious about something. (2) they want to demonstrate their own expertise by asking an intelligent question. (3) they feel sympathy for the speaker and ask a question out of politeness to show they were listening. Actually, I think number 3 is more common than we might expect. So what constitutes a good question might depend on the goal of the question. But certainly, asking a question that somebody else has already asked would probably be a no-no. Listening to a presentation on astrobiology and then asking a question, "by the way, who do you think the world's greatest bass guitarist is?" is probably not such a good idea. It also might depend on who you are. If you are a respected scholar in the field, and you don't ask a question, people might see it as unkind. Whereas if you are a newcomer, asking a question might be seen as presumptuous. So it seems hard to give a simple answer.

djellison
2010-Nov-30, 06:06 AM
So it's no longer 'best was to ask a question' but how to establish the validity of an answer?

I can't help but feeling we're still some way from the actual intent of this thread - but anyway...

Independent validation - that's what can help. If someone qualified gives answer X, and someone else, qualified, gives answer X - then it's a comparatively safe bet that X is a pretty good answer.

Now queue the question 'how do you know who's suitably qualified':whistle:

gzhpcu
2010-Nov-30, 08:00 AM
Maybe a thread should be opened on "how to ask a question on how to ask a question"...:lol:

Torsten
2010-Nov-30, 05:59 PM
I can think of three major reasons, but there are probably others. (1) they are genuinely curious about something. (2) they want to demonstrate their own expertise by asking an intelligent question. (3) they feel sympathy for the speaker and ask a question out of politeness to show they were listening.

A fourth reason comes to mind: This is when the questioner knows as much about the topic as the speaker, but feels that a point needs to be made that hasn't been covered in the talk or the subsequent discussion. Rather than assert it based on his/her own knowledge, a question will be asked that steers the discussion into this area, and it's the speakers making the point now, not "some person" from the floor. It is different from the second or third type that Jens mentioned, and it's more likely to do with wanting to emphasize an implication of what the speakers were discussing or furthering an agenda without stealing attention from the speakers.


Whereas if you are a newcomer, asking a question might be seen as presumptuous. So it seems hard to give a simple answer.

One of the talks at a conference I attended some years ago left me with a question about the practical implication of the topic in my field of work, but behind me was one of Jens' type 2 questioners. I was quite intimidated by the setting, but when he was done with his questions I got up the nerve to ask my question. I had framed it so that others would understand why I was asking it, and managed to stutter though it. The answer confirmed what I had suspected from the talk, but what surprised me was how the whole post-talk discussion seemed to change course and became quite lively. After the talk I went up to ask one of the other speakers another question, and the one to whom I had addressed my question made a point of thanking me.

Hlafordlaes
2010-Nov-30, 10:11 PM
Having spoken at a good number of conferences, I can say most speakers are happy to get any questions at all, as most people are too shy to ask much in front of many people. [At least at biz talks; I suppose scientific venues are different and more interactive.] Questions which on the surface may seem silly or ask about something that has been explained already are not generally poorly received, as they allow the speaker to reiterate core points, and no one really loses. I think the only ones that can offend the audience, apart from outright heckling, are ones that aren't questions at all but attempts to introduce the questioner's own agenda/pet theory/ATM. It's a fine line, but audience groans are a good litmus.

Strange
2010-Nov-30, 11:28 PM
Make clear what you do understand and what you don't; then ask a question that is specific enough to be answered (eg not "tell me more about that 'Universe' you mentioned") but not so narrow it constrains the answer.

As examples from the forum, that are relevant for other contexts, there have been quite a few CT-related questions recently which have been good models: "I have seen this on YouTube, I understand that XYZ is true but I'm not sure why ABC is wrong". Establishes the level of understanding so the answer can be pitched right; makes clear what is understood already; and makes clear what information is required.


A fourth reason comes to mind

And another one from the sort of conferences I [used to] go to: the questioner (typically a marketing type) who is looking for an opportunity to promote their product. They will say things like "I noticed you didn't mention [function X]; are you aware that [product Y] has solved this in an interesting and cost effective way?" At the more technical conferences this is frowned upon and will be met with grumbles of disapproval.

ineluki
2010-Dec-01, 12:42 PM
As I see it, what's more important is the reaction to the answers.

Generally, if the original Asker reacts to the answers with "but" instead of "thanks" thats IMHO the first warning sign someone is basically trying to stealthpromote ATM.

Grey
2010-Dec-01, 04:14 PM
No - that's not what he said at all. Infact, your prove his point. You don't like HIS answer so you're asking the same question again. You're not listening to any answer, let alone any fool.


I actually like his answer ... but the follow up is how do I know if the answer is correct without further probe? Is that not a valid follow up?But you couldn't tell from your original reply that you thought it was a good answer. Instead, it looked like you were challenging his reply, making it sound like captain swoop had suggested something different that what was intended.

If you're really thinking about this in the context of a conference, then presumably you can assume that the presenter is reasonably knowledgeable about the subject matter at hand. So in that case, you ask your question, trying to provide enough information so that it's clear just what you're trying to understand. Then you accept the answer and say "thank you". At a public conference, if you still don't understand after someone gives you an answer, I'd think that you should consider the idea that it's just you that isn't getting it, and perhaps try to talk with the presenter privately later. Similarly, if you were in a university lecture, and the professor keeps answering your questions but it's still not making sense, maybe consider meeting with the professor during office hours rather than continuing to take up class time.

Strange
2010-Dec-01, 04:30 PM
Similarly, if you were in a university lecture, and the professor keeps answering your questions but it's still not making sense, maybe consider meeting with the professor during office hours rather than continuing to take up class time.

Or, in my case, realising there is no point signing up for the second year!