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How to ask a good question

  1. Feb 17, 2006 #1
    So in my classes lately, i've realized that i can't always follow whats going on, but they move so class its hard to know why. In the help sessions, i feel like i need to be very specific in what i don't understand, otherwise the help guy goes all over the place, and i'm even more lost. Even when i study, when i get problems wrong, i'm no good at finding the mistake, i have to just restart usually.

    I feel like i'm lacking in the ability to ask GOOD questions. By a "good" question, i mean one that gets to the root of the problem, and is set up to give a meaningful answer.

    so, how do you think is a good way to approach your work so that you can find your problems and ask good questions about them? how does one develop the ability to ask good questions?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2006 #2
    Practice. This is one of those things in life that can't be learned, but it just has to click inside your head. Only real way to do that is to practice. Keep asking questions. Eventually, you'll start to realize what you want to know and how to say it.
     
  4. Feb 18, 2006 #3

    0rthodontist

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    I recommend studying the material enough beforehand so that you understand it, and then whatever question you ask will be a good one. Don't conclude you're "lost" until you've spent a good ten or twenty minutes staring at the material and trying to figure out what happened, and if you make any headway during that time then spend another ten or twenty minutes if you need to. Does it take longer than asking someone? Maybe, but it has the advantage that you yourself master the material as opposed to someone feeding it to you, and experience pays off.

    You can't expect to ask a question that gets to the root of the problem unless you have a good grasp of most of the material. You have to be able to say "I understand everything except (your problem here)."

    The other kind of question I would ask (other than the questions you ask when you understand the material) is a quick one that you know can be answered in a sentence or two, like a clarification of notation.
     
  5. Feb 18, 2006 #4

    JasonRox

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    The problem is that she wants to ask the right question so she CAN understand the stuff because she does NOT understand it. She's already studied as much as she can.

    I've learned not to be afraid to ask a stupid question. If it's what I need to know or clarify, I ask (if I can't figure it out). Don't be afraid to look stupid or to be wrong.
     
  6. Feb 18, 2006 #5

    0rthodontist

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    You can only ask a stupid question fruitfully if it's only stupid about one thing, and you know enough context to understand the answer. Good questions are informed questions. I agree you should never be afraid to ask, but you shouldn't bother to ask unless you know enough so that it will help you.

    Anyway her problem is she does not have a book.
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2006
  7. Feb 18, 2006 #6

    JasonRox

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    The best thing to do for this is to know the material. Someone who does not know rarely asks a good question if not ever.

    Once you know the material, attack the questions from every angle. Not all of them because that will waste your time, but those who are considered "big", like proofs of theorems in mathematics.

    Read my signature. :wink:

    One of my favourite ways to attack questions in Analysis and Set Theory when it comes to infinites is to ask about the uncountable infinite. Try and find examples that make it fail and then try to understand why it fails, and why it is different from what is being proposed. (Obviously the examples are different because you can't possibly find a counter-example to a theorem that has been proven. Basically, what part of it does not follow the hypothesis.)
     
  8. Feb 18, 2006 #7

    JasonRox

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    I now apologize. You do need to know the material to ask a good question.

    It seems like she's ask for good questions for her to understand, and good questions for her to get to the roots of it.
     
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