How can one ask a good question in a subject he/she doesn't know much about?

For example, I'm a developer. Even though I may not know Java, I know how to ask a good question about Java because it's my world.

When it comes, for example, databases, I am a user of databases, but I'm far from knowing particularities about this world.

So, when asking questions about databases, many times the question will seem too broad, or a XY Problem, or a "how-to-do-my-job" question, simply because I don't know how to ask in this particular field.

Then, what it may seems pretty good to me, when it comes to a person who knows a whole lot more than me, he/she thinks it's not a good question.

  • 1
    There is only one way, trial and error. That is how I started out when self-teaching myself VBA. You ask a question, which is then not very well received, but there are some comments like "What you describe is called X". Then you can research that. Knowing the language is important, and one can only learn by feedback, as you don't know what to search for.
    – Luuklag
    Jan 7, 2020 at 12:06
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    You don't need to be an expert to explain the question, the thoughts put into that issue, if and what one has tried already and what the expected results are/look like. Experts may then find some details useless/superfluous, but they still get the crisp of what has been asked. That the question ends up being to broad or look like a "how to do my job" question is an issue with the asker not knowing how to ask a proper question, not the lacking knowledge in the subject matter.
    – Tom
    Jan 7, 2020 at 12:07
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    @Luuklag Rather than flooding the site with ill-researched questions and ending up question-banned, the proper way to do that is to go into a chatroom and ask for help constructing the question/research query. Not everything must be a SO question. Jan 7, 2020 at 13:41

2 Answers 2


By learning more about the subject.

Writing a question on Stack Overflow should never be your first step. Your first step should be copious research. Reading, studying, walking through the issue with your colleagues. Examine existing/previous Stack Overflow questions. Sometimes (but never merely) searching the web.

This takes time. It's supposed to.

Only when you've done all this and you've still not managed to resolve the issue, do you resort to asking for free help.

If you do not yet know enough about a subject to ask a question on it, you have not completed your research, and are therefore not ready to post on Stack Overflow.

Stack Overflow is not a replacement for learning.


When available, read the tag wiki of the subject and search the corresponding meta-site for guidelines about how to ask a good question about that subject.

The above it's very likely that will point you to resources to learn the key terminology and concepts that will lead you to be able to be more successful in your search/research efforts and could also point to places were (could be chat room in the site, or to another place) where you could chat with people willing to guide you in your learning process and getting things done.


This answer is few months late but it propose something more generic not just limited to Stack Overflow because it's not the only site on the Stack Exchange related to software development even it's not the only site about databases and the core of the question applies to any subject.


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