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Is there a particular structure that would be most useful when asking a question? I realise the type of question being asked would obviously affect this in specific cases but, in a general way, when you come to a question, what (level of) details would you like to see in what sort of order? Are section headings useful/distracting? How can a question be asked to make it easiest for people to answer it?

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up vote 12 down vote accepted

I always find a question that's structured thusly is quite a good way to go:

  • Preamble: What is the questioner trying to achieve, what environment are they trying to achieve it in and what isn't working
  • Detail: Source-code (reduced to show the relevant part of the code!), screenshots, exceptions, stack-traces
  • What I've tried: An outline of anything the OP has already tried

Of course this won't always be a good fit and I wouldn't suggest that a question should be broken up this way with section headings as this could make the question seem a bit stilted.

How can a question be asked to make it easiest for people to answer it?

  • By putting time and effort into composing the question
  • Ensuring that the spelling & grammar doesn't detract from the content of the question
  • Providing enough detail so that others stand a chance of answering the question
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Jon Skeet's Writing the perfect question is an excellent guide to asking questions. There's also a complementary post Answering technical questions helpfully which is well worth a read.

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+1 for reference to Jon Skeet's article – JYelton Jun 3 '11 at 19:13

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