What is the art of asking great questions in the Stack Exchange community? The meta Q/A helped a lot, but are the answerers looking for unique questions? How do I ask something like those considering I've only completed my high school?

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    On which site? There's some shared advice for sure (such as "make sure you do your research first"), but if you're talking about tailoring a question to a specific audience... I'm afraid there's no one way to outline that in a way that fits all 150+ sites in the network at this point. – Adam Lear Oct 10 '16 at 6:25
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    @AdamLear: See below. One page or less; it's all any new user really needs to know. – user102937 Oct 10 '16 at 14:41
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    @RobertHarvey Thanks for posting that, looks great to me. It is, though, the shared advice I mentioned in my comment. I was just asking whether Stacy was looking for anything more specific as well. – Adam Lear Oct 10 '16 at 15:35

Read the Help Center First!

Every site comes with a "user guide" called the Help Center You should read it. You don't have to read the Help Center before you ask a question, but you will be treated as if you have read it and understand the material, even if you have not. So read it.

If there is a fundamental principle for being productive on a Stack Exchange site, it is that everything you've learned about asking questions on Internet Forums is wrong. Approach Stack Exchange with a fresh perspective; none of your forum habits are going to work here.

Be On-Topic

The first thing you should do is read the On-Topic article for the website you're interested in asking a question on. You can find the On-Topic article in the Help Center; it's titled "What kinds of questions can I ask here? You can find the Help Center in the black bar that's at the top of every Stack Exchange site; it's the link called "Help."

The on-topic article will tell you whether or not your question's subject matter is acceptable for that particular Stack Exchange site.

For example, Stack Overflow says that questions about:

  • a specific programming problem, or
  • a software algorithm, or
  • software tools commonly used by programmers; and is
  • a practical, answerable problem that is unique to software development

are on-topic there.

On-topic lists are restrictive, not proscriptive. What I mean by that is, if it's not directly related to one of the topics in the on-topic list, there's a high likelihood that your question is not on-topic.

It's your responsibility to figure out whether your question is on-topic or not, before you ask it.

Things to Avoid

Most Stack Exchange sites do not answer survey questions, make lists of things, or engage in extended discussion. They don't predict the future, help you find things on the Internet, provide customer support, or make product recommendations of any kind. They don't know what project you should do next, what class you should take next, or what job you should apply for. They don't give legal advice.

Questions should be clear enough to be answerable. If you're not sure if your question is clear enough, ask the duck.

Questions should be reasonably scoped. If a good answer to your question could fill a book (or the better part of a book chapter), it's probably Too Broad. Make your questions specific.

Learn the fundamentals and do your homework

Come to the table with some fundamental knowledge of your craft, and show your prior research into your specific problem. You can't expect to learn an entire subject area from strangers on the Internet, one question at a time, nor can you expect us to read your mind or do your work for you. Show us what you've tried. Everyone has to pay their dues for awhile before they earn the right to ask a question of a professional. That's not unique to Stack Exchange; it's just how the world works.

Finally, consider taking some time getting to know the unique community and its participants with which you are about to engage, before asking your first question. You can do this by observing which questions are well-received, and watching the community for the kinds of feedback they typically ask of question posters.

How do I find out more?

Each site has a Help Center, a Meta site (the site about the site) and a chat room. Use these resources; they all have a wealth of information that can help you use each site productively. There's a model and a specific way of doing things here; learn it, and your interaction with the communities will be much more productive and far less painful from the start.

Further Reading
How to Ask Questions the Smart Way

  • +1. Regarding product recommendations, we have two sites here that are exclusively devoted to that :) Software Recommendations and Hardware Recommendations :) – Revetahw says Reinstate Monica Oct 11 '16 at 13:25

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