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Mean structure proposed

I am writing this post for new users who don't have the time to read the full article of how to ask a good question. In this post, I will give my opinion of what structure beginners should follow to ask well-received question, based on my personal experience of new user in Math Stack Exchange. I will write this post as concise and clear as possible.

The plan for asking a good question

I will use a concrete example of question of mine, which received initially 3 downvotes and was closed. After asking for some advice on the meta, I edited my question several times. After that, it received 3 upvotes and has been reopened.

Contextualisation

This part is more important than you think. Most questions without contextualisation are poorly received.

Contextualisation

In my example, I was studying the Bessel functions. Everything about it was clear to me, but a short summary was necessary. Indeed, remember that many of us probably saw this a long time ago, and don't remember the subject as well as you do while you are asking it. People who answer questions here do it for free. They are making you a favor, so they are not the ones supposed to do additional research for you. Putting a small summary will only take you 5 minutes, and considerably rise your chances to get upvotes. Don't hesitate to add pictures and external links (to Wikipedia, for instance).

Problem

Writing explicitly your problem before the moment you ask your question is a good way to introduce it.

Problem

If you don't start talking about your problem in the middle of your question, the readers could get bored, especially if the question is long. If they do, they may skip your next paragraphs until the question at the end. Note that your problem should correspond to the title of your question. Remember that the question you write should stay clear without your title, which thus must also be included in your post. Right after the contextualisation is the perfect place for it.

Personal thoughts / attempts

Questions "do my homework for me" style are poorly received. When your mouse goes under the "downvote" button, you can read that "this question does not show any research effort" is one of the first causes of downvote.

Personal thoughts / attempts

As people in Math Stack Exchange take quite a long time to answer you, they expect you to respect that time and show you tried to solve the problem on your own. That's why I showed in my post a personal attempt of solving my problem, illustrated by a graph. This section can be long, but doesn't need to.

Explicit question

An unclear question will not receive effective answers. The final question you are asking must be crystal clear.

Explicit question

Don't hesitate to put the final question in bold if necessary. This is the most important part of your post.

Conclusion

If you are in Math SE, you probably like maths. We are made to get along ! Again, this structure is the one I follow, and many users may not have the same opinion. However, if you follow it, you sould have no problem.

A last advice: don't hesitate to regularly edit your question if some users point out something wrong in the question. Be nice with them, if a strong change is needed do not modify the entire post, but write an "update" section instead. That's what I did at the end of the post I showed you.


Right... Where is the question here ?

Some of you may want to close this post because it's actually not a question. Note that "How to ask a good question" also isn't. If you really need me to ask a question here, maybe it would be: what do you think about the structure I proposed here ? Is it clear enough for new users ? How to improve this ?

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    $\begingroup$ Nice write up! I don't know how many new users will follow the good advice given, but I'm always glad to have another resource to point them to. $\endgroup$ Dec 25, 2022 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ Unless you address the multitude of <problem-statement copied-from-exercise> followed by any variant of <I-have-to-clue-how-to-begin>, aka "I have no clue!" questions you haven't even cracked the tip of the ice-berg. But, I'll end with the positive: Excellent effort. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Dec 25, 2022 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks ! I tried to do something shorter than the usual guide so the new users won't be discouraged from reading it, but it is clear that this ice-berg is huge. $\endgroup$
    – user1107523
    Dec 25, 2022 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ Well, the fact that you include the link to the lengthier post in your question is very helpful. You could include, at the end, add something like: "Want more details? See [link] ..." So the two posts can work, hand in hand. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Dec 25, 2022 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ +1 for your effort here. Very well thought out. $\endgroup$
    – Paramanand Singh Mod
    Dec 25, 2022 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy you mean I should repeat the link share at the very end of my post or the first one at the beginning is sufficiant ? $\endgroup$
    – user1107523
    Dec 26, 2022 at 9:26
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    $\begingroup$ Thank you very much for writing up this template. One thing I'm curious about: why is the explicit question at the bottom? I use some context | question (in bold) | more thorough context | problem statement (if applicable) | proof attempt | conclusion to make it easy for people to stop reading early. Is putting the explicit question at the bottom preferred? $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2022 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ @GregNisbet your structure is also good. I put the "problem" section at your "question" section for the same reason (keep the attention of the reader). The reason why I put the real question at the end is that, according to my question asker and question reader experience, people are likely to stop reading what follows the question to answer as quick as possible (as you know, the first answer appears at the top, and is more likely to be upvoted and accepted). By puting the question at the end, I hope that the readers won't skip the personal attempts. $\endgroup$
    – user1107523
    Dec 27, 2022 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ In "contextualisation" see if you can add a few extremely specific pointers , like (1) Write down the exact source of your problem, including the textbook you found it in, the chapter number, problem number etc. (2) If this is from a particular course, write down exactly the last few things you learned in that course (3) If this is from a particular paper or textbook then cite it using the cite option. (4) Follow up on comments asking for clarifications and fulfill them by editing your post (and in the comments as well). $\endgroup$ Dec 27, 2022 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ Please do not recommend using colours to emphasize parts of a question. We already have emphasis for that! Unless you know exactly what you're doing, and therefore will know not to do it anyway, you are reducing accessibility by messing with formatting just to add colour when it is not necessary. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Dec 28, 2022 at 4:51
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    $\begingroup$ @SarveshRavichandranIyer thanks for the additional tips, if think about writting an answer here with more details on my post, if I do that I'll put your advice here. I'm afraid that if I add all of this in the basical guide, it wouldn't be "quick" anymore :-) $\endgroup$
    – user1107523
    Dec 29, 2022 at 6:35
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    $\begingroup$ Read the comment and think this time, please. What on earth does enjoyment or distinguish-ment, whatever that means, have to do with anything here? $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Jan 4 at 22:21
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? How to ask a good question. $\endgroup$
    – David Lui
    Jan 7 at 9:18
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidLui this guide is meant to be "quick", I already linked this post to this question which provide much longer explanations $\endgroup$
    – user1107523
    Jan 8 at 7:52

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