September 16, 2014

Just Ask: Six Tips for Finding an Answer

Asking a question might seem simple enough, but sometimes it can be difficult deciding where to start. Hallie Brodie, Manager of InfoLink, shares her insight on getting answers to any and all questions you might have. 
The reasons that each of us have made our way to the U of A are unique and personal, however there is one common driving force that brings us all here: curiosity. University is all about the pursuit and transfer of knowledge. Whether you are investigating the possible outcomes for an equation, researching developments from the past, or are trying to predict the best method to communicate, for every project, essay, or report that you work on, you will find yourself looking to answer a question.

Seeking an answer to an academic question usually seems like a natural thing to do. But for some reason, asking a question outside the classroom can sometimes feel embarrassing. Nobody likes to look dumb. And I’m here to tell you that you should never feel foolish for asking about something that you don’t already know. Promise. As the Manager of InfoLink, the U of A’s campus information service, I can assure you that whatever your question is, someone else has probably already asked it. And if they haven’t, then the question that you have will likely capture the imagination of those that will help you find the answer.

So, here are a few things to keep in mind if you have a question:

1) Have an Idea
If you have a broad question, try to narrow down what it is that you might actually be looking for. Laying out a few parameters for yourself will make it easier to locate the information that you need.

2) Find an Expert
Try to identify an individual to help you in your quest for information. If you've narrowed your question just enough, it should be easier to locate possible subject authorities.

3) Be Open
If you're asking someone a question, you have to be open to the answer that you might receive. While this might seem obvious, it really isn't. I've lost count of the number of times I've provided an answer to someone only to have them follow up by asking “really?” If you are consulting an expert, you have to trust them. And know that your preconceived notions might not match the reality the situation.

4) Verify
This one might contradict my last point, but if you feel like the information that you've been provided isn't quite right, or if you just really want to be absolutely certain about its accuracy, do try to find another source to confirm what you've already found.

5) Be Brave
Asking another person to share their expertise with you can be intimidating, but you’ll only become an “expert” yourself by locating the information. Asking a question does not make you dumb… but not asking could.

6) Ask for More
Sometimes an answer can lead to a new series of questions to explore, and that’s all right. Keep searching for information until you have all of the facts that you believe you’ll need.

As you start your school year, know that the most important thing to keep in mind is this: if you have a question, just ask it. At best, you’ll receive the answer you need. At worst, you’ll be invited to ask another question.