degree of detailsI have always found it rather interesting to read the different posts made by some users as questions.Some have been truly sparce and it is impossible to gather what is being...

degree of details

I have always found it rather interesting to read the different posts made by some users as questions.
Some have been truly sparce and it is impossible to gather what is being asked.
Others, like mine, have been overfilled with information that is potentially useful, but will be found anyway in a proof.

The questions arise: how much detail should one include in a question as a minimum?
and how much is simply too much detail? if it is even possible to supply too much detail at all.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To pose a question, the student wants to use one of the five Ws and How since more than one question has become unacceptable and the editors must revise the student's submission to one question. So, in considering how to pose just one question, choose the interrrogative word that will provide you with an ample response.

For instance, let's say that a student asks something like this,

How does the character ______ demonstrate ______? Why does she act this way? 

Here are 2 questions that will be modified to one by an editor; most likely, the editor will just use the first one.  But, if the student, instead, writes the question with WHY, the editor will probably include answers to HOW, anyway, in the process of answering the Why question. For, it is almost impossible to not describe how the character acts in order to answer why he/she acts this way.

So, word the question with just one interrogative word, but include phrasing that will lead to an editor's developing more in his/her answer.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The minimum amount of detail is the amount needed to understand what the question is asking.  For example, students sometimes ask a question about a book without telling us what book the question is about.  That is not enough information.  Students sometimes ask what a good conclusion for their essay on some topic is without telling us what they have argued in the essay.  That is not enough information.

In general, I cannot think of anything that would constitute too much detail in a question.  The more that we know about what you are thinking, the more we can tailor our answers to your specific needs.  More detail would prevent us, for example, from simply giving you ideas that you have already had on your own.

I would argue that more detail is always better when asking questions.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the above posts. It would be difficult to include too many details in a question! It is possible to have more than one book or poem with the same title, so it is nice to know an author. If you have very specific questions about an incident in a novel, it is helpful to know what incident you are questioning.

Maybe that is one case where it would be possible to include too much information. Don't give a specific page number because different editions have pagination done differently, but do include the context from which the question is coming so we can refer to the correct part of the story.

wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is important to be concise, but remember that concise doesn't mean leaving out key details.  Concise means "giving a lot of information clearly and in few words; brief but comprehensive" (according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary).  It is important to share all the details.  For instance, we may need to know something about the project or assignment in order to help you find the answer.  However, we do not necessarily need extraneous information about the class, the teacher, etc in order to effectively answer the question.  Being concise is an important skill to learn.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think there is always a skill in writing a concise question that nevertheless gives all the details that are needed. I have dim memories of being told by one teacher that one American president (can't remember who) would only read things if they were written on one side of paper. If it was any longer, he wouldn't bother. I guess this is a lesson for us that what is worth writing about should be able to be condensed into a short amount of space whilst not missing out any of the key details.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best way to pose a question is to look at exactly what you want to know. Unfortunately, some questions are too open and others are too specific. I feel that the question which speaks directly to the issue at hand is the best stated one in regards to offering a precise answer. On the other hand, some questions are so large that the information provided in the answer may contain too much information and limit the information on what the question poser is really looking for.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many users are looking for specific help on specific assignments or homework, and so they are sometimes impossibly specific.  That is, we do not have the context of their classroom or instructor to work with.  Those questions are hard to answer effectively.  Others are impossibly vague.

The main suggestion I have is to remember we have a very short space to answer questions in, and so we need some specific detail, but with a reasonable focus for a brief answer.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I observe the same thing, and for me it is interesting to guess whether questions are copied directly from an assignment or if a student is trying to get a handle on some issue on his or her own.

Generally speaking, the amount of detail a student needs to give is in direct proportion to how detailed the answer needs to be. As an editor, I try to take my cue regarding the amount of detail from the questions, so I notice wording (and wordiness).

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The best questions are specific enough that we know what the student wants.  If possible, it helps to know any additional guidance that the teacher gave, so we know what the teacher is thinking.  Sometimes teachers think the assignment is clear, and it isn't.  This is something I became much more aware of after starting to answer student questions on enotes!

lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is helpful to let us know what kind of information you need.  Would a list of ideas be helpful or would you prefer one focused idea? Do you need a few specific quotes?  Do you need to have two sides of a specific argument? I personally like to respond to the very specific questions because I better know that I really helping the student.


dark0flame | Student

I am merely providing this example for the purposes of debating.
Consider this:
you are presented with a mathematical problem in which you are able to get up to the third stage of the problem, however each stage is made to be a sub-problem.
Should one then submit the whole problem and specify exactly what has been achieved up unto that point. Should one simply try to interpret all the details that are assumed to be relevant (which may lead to exclusion of relevant details)
or should one simply pose the whole question and refer only to the point that help is needed with.

in addition.
when answering a question, especially in mathematics, a host of methods arise in which the same question can be solved, but the student needs to know how to solve using a particular method. Should then the chapter it is found in be included, and a request be made to solve it using a particular method.