I have used (stalked?) the StackExchange family of websites, and until recently, couldn't find a need to register: I usually found a similar question to mine, with an answer much better than I could think of. MUCH better.

I recently asked a question How can I get the key to my professor's lab? [closed] to which I got several wonderful answers, but my question was closed as off-topic for understandable reasons.

Asking and answering questions is more art than science (is it?) but I don't know how to start becoming part of this online society.

Two questions I found particularly interesting:

Two answers I found particularly interesting:


2 Answers 2


I won't profess to know how to "master the art" of asking questions on SE. But I will answer based on my experience thus far with these sites.

Chiefly, the best way to learn the art of asking questions is... to ask questions. Just like most other things in life, it takes time and practice to figure out how to do ask a "good" question -- though the links @ff524 pointed out will help narrow that down. But ultimately, it takes time to figure out what questions have already been asked, what questions are appropriate, what questions are worthwhile (so to speak), etc.

So tonysdg, what you're saying is that I should start blasting the site with questions and eventually I'll get better, right?

Sure, and if you keep randomly entering letters into a word processor, you'll get the complete works of William Shakespeare. My point is: obviously I don't mean ask dozens of inane, silly questions -- but if you've been stalking reading SE sites already, then you have a fairly decent picture of what a truly awful question looks like. As for the questions in your mind that you aren't sure about -- ask away. Trust me, the community will let you know one way or the other ;-)

And over time, you'll get a better and better sense of how to ask good, useful, meaningful questions on SE.

  • How about answering questions?
    – salehgeek
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 3:16
  • @salehgeek: Totally just whale away at the keyboard entering random letters ;-) In all honesty, I'm still learning myself how to answer questions well. Generally speaking though, I'd say it's the same thing -- practice. Provide citations, if applicable. Make sure that you're answering the question that was asked, not the question that you think was being asked (if that's the case, use a comment instead to ask for clarification). Give credit where credit is due (doubly so if Jon Skeet is involved). And speak from experience -- it's usually a heck of a lot more convincing than speculation.
    – tonysdg
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 3:21

After re-reading your question, I add that it is well written in many respects and so I guess that you are on a good way. A bit more detail:

  • In your question you give necessary background, a bit too much probably, but in this regard the question is fine.

  • The part "vent off some steam on the Academia StackExchange" was probably not a good idea. I think "venting off steam" here is not appreciated in general. In case the remark was tongue-in-cheek: adding humor to questions is difficult to get right (cf. this question and this duplicate) and often you are better off in leaving the humor out.

  • When the question comes to the actual question, you are asking too many questions (I count three question marks), and also quite different ones. I suggest to think harder on what is the most important question for you, i.e. an answer to what question would help you most. In this particular case, I guess the question "What I am doing wrong?", while probably interesting, is not the one that is most important, since you focus on improving your situation and not focus on reflecting your behavior.

  • I'll be sure to apply the three points you have mentioned in the future. In particular, keeping the question mark count down. Can you please clarify your last sentence? since you focus on improving your situation and not focus on reflecting your behavior.
    – salehgeek
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 7:08
  • Well, the two things are for sure related, but the focus is different. Do you want to know what you should do now or what you did wrong? If you think one of these questions is more important, just ask that one.
    – Dirk
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 10:13
  • How do you think I should start answering questions?
    – salehgeek
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 3:12
  • @salehgeek - In general, try to think in terms of what would be most useful to the person who asked the question, and check whether that material has already been provided in another answer. Provide some documentation if you can, and format your answer for easy reading. // You might want to dip your toe in the water by writing some comments; you can watch the votes on the comments, to see how they are received. Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 13:58

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