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Asking questions in a space where you lack knowledge?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

What is a good way to ask questions in a domain where you lack knowledge? How do you make a question a high effort question when you know relatively little about a topic? Sometimes you're put in a situation where you don't really know the fundamentals. How do you navigate this landscape and ask questions of higher quality? I feel like the more that I learn about a certain topic, the better I get at at asking questions in this area. However, I don't really have a great framework on asking questions when I'm starting out in a new field, so what could one do in these cases?

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    Staff SWE at Google, ex-Meta, ex-Amazon
    a year ago

    I think that the “ask well-informed questions” is noble, but has limits.

    Instead of asking a bunch of small questions with no context or understanding, I would ask for resources to use to learn from scratch. Just what they’d use if they had to learn it again. This shows interest, but is clear that you can’t even ask smart questions because you are starting from zero.

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    Senior SWE + Researcher, 23andMe
    a year ago

    I work with scientists and don't have a bio or stats background. I do this:

    • assume questions related to jargon are fair-game. If you don't know, you don't know.
    • continuously build a mental model of the domain. With each new concept, try and fit it into the mental model.
    • after a talk or presentation, I sometimes have several questions. I mentally rank my list of questions by perceived importance and ask the most important question. i.e. "is there a question whose answer will allow me to figure out the answer to several other questions?"
    • book time or 1-1s with experts. You may know something about a related domain (in my case, software engineering) that may help the expert in their day-to-day life. The information exchange may be mutually beneficial.