Being able to ask relevant questions is one of the most important academic skills. It helps you understand topics more deeply, allows you to demonstrate your critical thinking skills, and usually leads to improved participation marks.
With a little practice, you can learn to ask good questions about anything.
When the professor asks if the class has any questions, you’ll make a good impression if you often have a question prepared. As long as you’re listening carefully and thinking critically and creatively, you can come up with questions for almost anything.
Certainly you should be able to ask questions after reading any journal article or listening to a presentation or discussion. Once you’ve built your skills, you’ll discover you can ask meaningful questions about even the simplest things.
Here’s an example:
I ate eggs for breakfast this morning.
Now ask some questions…
Did you enjoy the eggs?
How were they prepared?
Do you like the yolk runny or firm?
Do you often eat eggs for breakfast?
Have you ever tried eggs benedict?
Did you eat at home or at a restaurant?
What else did you eat with the eggs?
Do you put salt on your eggs?
Do you ever have eggs for dinner?
What is your favourite egg dish?
That’s ten questions (and that’s just a start) about one seven-word sentence. Sure, it’s easier to ask questions about something you’re familiar with, like eating eggs, but if you can ask ten or more questions about such a simple statement, then you must be able to ask at least two or three questions about an article or presentation.
One of the best ways to build skills in asking questions is simply to practice. Whenever you read an article or watch a program or presentation, practice asking questions. Here are three question-asking strategies to get you started: probe for more detail, clear up ambiguity and inquire about important missing information.
And don’t forget who, what, when, where, why and how!