on asking questions

There is a really good article on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog about How to Ask a Question.  I think could be good for everyone to read and maybe even those who to go academic conferences such as SBL where papers are read and then there is time for Q&A afterwards.  Students could learn from it in class and so on.  Here are a few tid-bits:

The best reason to ask a question is to contribute to the quality of the discussion that has already begun. You can do this if you can draw something more and perhaps unexpected out of the speaker you are addressing.

Weigh the usual interrogatory words in English: who, what, where, why, when. If you can begin your sentence with one of these you are more than half-way to a good question.

Think of yourself as someone who seeks to enhance the occasion, rather than as an opportunity to show yourself to advantage.

You have not been invited to give a speech. Before you stand up, boil your thoughts down to a single point. Then ask yourself if this point is something you want to assert or something you want to find out. There are exceptions, but if your point falls into the category of assertion, you should probably remain seated.

The best questions are poised between attentiveness to what the speaker has already said and the chance to deepen the discussion.

and finally:

A few people have a gift for witty, memorable questions. You probably aren’t one of them. It doesn’t matter.  A concise, clear question is an important contribution in its own right.

anyways, happy reading!

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