Breaking it Down – What Makes a Question “Good?”

Recently on the blog, we walked through the Packback Curiosity Score and how questions and responses are measured within Packback’s platform.

So much goes into asking a “good” question. The Packback Curiosity Score helps understand the measurability of a question, but what are some quick wins and tips when asking questions and generating curiosity?

This post will walk through one featured question from a Packback student and and break down what makes it good as well as some ways to make it better and some big no-nos to avoid.

The image below shows the full question posted on the Packback platform. But let’s focus on each piece of this post.

When constructing questions, it is more encouraged to begin a question with an interrogative over a verb. Interrogative questions are those that begin with an interrogative word: who, what, when, where, why and how. Verb-led questions typically get answered with a yes, no or a maybe. These are not open-ended questions. Interrogative-led questions are not as simple to answer. Answers or responses will be more extended than yes, no or maybe.

From the article “The Science of Asking Great Questions” by the AMA, “The interrogative-led questions will paint a vision that will move the negotiation forward without the pitfalls of verb-led questions. They don’t challenge the other party… They elicit details. They ensure thoroughness. They help the other side as well as us see what hasn’t been seen and understood before.”

The first question begins with “how,” an interrogative word. Although the second question begins with “would,” a verb, it is a follow-up to the first question to encourage further discussion to the first question. If the second question was asked on its own, responders could easily get away with providing a yes, no or maybe question with no further explanation or support.

Be careful when asking too many questions at once. One to two questions in a post is more than enough. When asking too many questions, responders may be unsure of which question to respond to.

Also, avoid leading questions, which typically can be found in verb-led questions. Leading questions are phrased in a way that suggest the answer to responders, rather than being truly open for discussion and other students to think on their own. The second question above, could be leading as a solution was provided rather than asking for potential solutions. Teamed with the initial question, however, students can engage in good discussion.

And also, when using “how,” try to avoid using “how much” in your question. “How much” could encourage less discussion as it is quantitative. This student could have asked, “How did the 9/11 attacks factor into the anti-terrorism push for immigration regulations?” This pulls the responses away from a more quantitative approach and pushes them toward being more open for discussion.

And finally, the student provided supporting materials and information to further encourage curiosity and discussion.

Remembering these small elements can help make a question good, even great. To learn more about how Packback measures good questions, read more about the Packback Curiosity Scores.