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Asking questions the smart way on Eng-Tips fora by Drej
Posted: 5 Feb 05 (Edited 6 Feb 05)

When people post queries on any of these fora, it is usually because they are looking for a quick answer to an urgent problem. They need an answer as quickly as possible, and they need it yesterday. Hence, you would arguably expect the poster to do some preparation prior to this post; to think long and hard before writing down their query in order to get the quickest reply possible. So, why do so many posts fail to get their point over clearly, concisely, accurately, and in sufficient detail for people to give the quick answer they're looking for? Why do some posts fail to get ANY replies at all? Why in some instances do they even seem to get smart-alec remarks from other group members? There are a number of reasons in my view.

> Pure, unadulterated laziness on the part of the poster (come on, we've all been there)
> Inexperience
> Pressure (deadlines etc.)
> Lack of knowledge or a poor understanding of the subject matter
> Poor grasp of basic grammar, including punctuation and spelling
> No appreciation of the physics behind the problem
> And so on...

Henceforth, I offer some humble suggestions for the poster, based on my personal experience of this and other professional fora I am involved in:

- Always put yourself in the other group member's shoes when you post. They know nothing of your problem. They know nothing of you. They know nothing of your mathematical model (element types, keyopts, loads, constants, geometry...). They know nothing of the thought processes you were going through when you were developing it. They know nothing of your company, its products and so on. Don't ASSUME that people know what you're talking about, because THEY DON'T, unless you TELL them. Tell them the DETAILS of your problem - how are they supposed to know otherwise?

- Present your problem in as best grammatical English as you can possibly muster. If you can't be bothered to present your problem in a clear grammatical way, why should most respecting engineers be bothered replying to you?

- DON'T USE CAPITALS ALL THE TIME WHEN YOU WRITE YOUR POST LIKE THIS, BECAUSE IT MAKES IT LOOK AS THOUGH YOU ARE SHOUTING, AND THERE'S NO NEED TO SHOUT!

- onthe other hnd dont write evrythin like this in smalls with pore speling and punktooation cos people will suspekt ur not profesionel .or othr things . if ur sloppy or lazy or boht others will remember this in futre posts you know like when people write like this how ru suppsed to get a deecent reply cos engineers r profesionel peeple hoo take grate care in there work you know what im saying (shudder)

- Hence, vague is what vague does. If you write like an illiterate dumbo, with the writing age of a five year old child, frankly you deserved to be ignored and have stoney silence thrust upon on you. So there. If you write your post in a sloppy manner, people will think you're a sloppy engineer; ultimately, responding to a sloppy poster isn't the most rewarding thing in the world (that's assuming you get a reply). So take it upon yourself to present your problem as best as you can. This will definitely improve your communication skills, and is also more likely to focus your mind better on the problem, since it forces you to set the problem down in a logical, structured and concise fashion. Think also that the quality of your communication/writing/work in general will also be improved. You can't lose, can you? Heck, you may even get promoted!

- Be polite. You don't have to grovel; just a "cheers!" or "thanks!" just like your parents taught you! Remember, people here are doing you a huge favour in most cases, saving you many hours of reading and potential embarrassment in the office - the least you can do is thank them for their efforts. Furthermore, once you've got an answer, go and satisfy yourself that this is correct by reading a bit more on the subject, implementing a test model etc.

- *Please, please, please do your homework before you post*. I can't stress this enough. Before you embarrass yourself by asking ridiculous questions, Read The help file/Manual supplied with the software (RTFM in fora parlance) and convince other members of the group that you're not a lazy, freeloading son of a gun. Engineers can tell this - they know, you know... The manual WILL contain the answer to your problem in 95% of cases, probably more. If you can't at the very least be bothered to look through the manual, why should other group members do all the hard work for you? You never know, you might learn something - or a lot û working your way through and RTFM. ANSYS has an amazing help file, and it's HUGE! It has guidelines for modeling across the whole spectra; from simple geometry creation to things to consider in, say, complex dynamic analyses; it also a theory reference section, to guide you on most analysis topics û so use it, itÆs excellent! It's also fully searchable, both by "index" and by "search" alone. I do agree with other people's comments that it can be intimidating at first look, but which software isn't intimidating at first anyway? Once you've grasped how the ANSYS help file works, you'll be smiling from ear to ear. No, honestly, you will. You can also ask other people in the office for their advice on your problem. How about the person sitting next to you? The problem is that when you don't prepare, or you don't ask other people, or don't think about what the problem is, your post can come over in a garbled, lazy and unfocused manner. If you say things like, "my model doesn't work cos it's givin me an eror can somone hlep me pls", what sort of response what you expect from this? Your first thought would be ôCan you supply a crystal ball with that question, please?ö Imagine if your boss said to you, "I want you to model a box", and then walks off. How many questions would you need to ask him/her before you could be confident that your model would represent his/her wishes? When posting here, or on any fora, imagine the thought processes you'd have to go through to make sure your boss got what he/she wanted. At the end of the day it's about getting out what you put in. Garbage in-garbage out is what they say. And when all's said and done, if you don't care, who is to say anyone else will?  Amen to that.


Useful links
------------

Asking questions the smart way:
http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html (an excellent article on the art of asking questions)


Useful ANSYS resources:
www.ansys.com (the home of the ANSYS software family)
http://www1.ansys.com/customer/content/examples/index.htm (some useful examples of different analyses using ANSYS)
http://ansys.net/ansys/ (an excellent ANSYS resource for, well, just about everything ANSYS related really)
www.xansys.org (professional, mediated and altogether useful forum for the ANSYS community û also excellent)
http://www3.sympatico.ca/peter_budgell/home.html (tips, tricks, advice, etc. from a very experienced ANSYS user)

Please feel free to make any comments on this FAQ. Good luck and happy posting.

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