How to ask good questions?

This story explores these three questions.

Why ask good questions?Before diving into the how part, you might want to know why you should care about asking good questions so let us take a moment to understand why.

Questions are intended to lead to answers, to information, to the fulfillment of curiosity — something all of us have desired in our lives.

And we try that quite often: everything from a simple lookup on Google to a detailed essay response involves the notion of asking questions.

In fact, Voltaire thought that the ability to ask the right questions was more important than having all the answers:“Judge a man by his questions, not by his answers.

”— VoltaireThus, since asking questions is such an integral part of our lives, asking good questions could be beneficial, not just personally but also professionally.

This is especially true for Data Science, as some data scientists argue that asking the right questions is the most important process in the analysis — which is why it holds the key to adding value in Data Science.

But what exactly is a good question?.Let me explain my perspective.

What is a good question?Our questions can be categorized based on who they’re addressed to; in broad terms, we either ask a human (friend, family or stranger) or a non-human (voice assistant, search engine, etc.


With so much information available on the internet and so many interpretations of questions by humans and non-humans possible, a good question should be correctly understood and lead to an accurate answer in a timely manner.

To identify these questions, we need data and a way to compare questions.

But, how do we measure?.Is there an indicator that can do this for us?.A possibility is to count the number of follow up questions you need to arrive at an answer finally.

Consider for example that you searched for data on “fertility rates across the world.

” It is plausible that you did not find the data you were looking for in the first go because the search engine didn’t know what time-frame you’re looking at: did you want the data for the past 1 year or 50?.Did you want historical data or predictions or both?Or let’s say you search for “riches countries in the world.

” Again, there are many interpretations for these: what indicators do we use for “rich”?.GDP?.GNI?.What time-frame are we looking at?These ambiguities require you to ask a series of “follow-up” questions where you either tweak your original question or come up with a completely new one until you find your answer.

As a smart human being who values time, you definitely want to avoid it and be efficient and effective at the same time.

It is often the case that one question isn’t enough and it may not be, but we understand that it is our ideal scenario: if we know that one, ideal question, we could find our answer in one go!.Think that is overly optimistic?.Well, at least Einstein didn’t think so:“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes” — Albert Einstein.

This quote reiterates the importance of asking good questions in finding the answers efficiently and effectively.

In a way, the number of follow up questions is, as Charles Burke calls it, our “Mount Fuji Metric.

”Photo by Daniel Seßler on UnsplashWe aim for the top of the metric (aka the mountain peak).

Although we may never achieve it, constantly thriving towards it will help us improve immensely.

Asking questions is a skill that you can develop if you keep climbing towards the peak and maybe reach it as the guy in the first photo.

How?Since you know what good questions are and why they’re important, you’re ready to uncover the most tricky part: how?As discussed in the what part, an good ideal question is one that is sufficient to reach the answer in just one shot.

Thus, the key to asking good questions is to ask specific, detailed questions.

But how much is enough?.Is more always better?.Not necessarily.

Consider a scenario when two people walk into a café and ask for food:Person 1: Can I please have a cheese hamburger?Person 2: Can I get two buns, a patty of meat, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, cheese all stacked together?You get the idea.

You want to find the right balance and here below are 3 considerations you should make before devising a question.

Let me walk you through an example and how these factors come in.

Let’s say you want to find out how rich people are across the world and how that differs in different geographic regions.

#1: Specific TerminologyAre the terms you are asking specific to that domain?. More details

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