It can be frustrating to have a question for which you don't know the answer. Fortunately, you can use various tools to answer it. Depending on the question, you can use a search engine, do extensive research, or contact a professional. In no time, you'll be much closer to finding the answer.
Method 1 of 3: Find the question
Step 1. Enter some specific terms in a search engine
When using a search engine on the Internet, try to ask the question as clearly as possible. Include details or specifications relevant to the question to limit unrelated results.
- For example, instead of searching for "When is Thanksgiving?" You could write "When is Thanksgiving in 2020?"
- To ask research questions (like "Which scientists laid the foundations for quantum physics?"), Try using an academic search engine like RefSeek, Google Scholar, or BASE.
Step 2. Use quotation marks to ask exact questions
If you want to get very narrow results for the question, you can discard any results that include the same words but do not answer your question. To skip these results, enclose the entire question in quotation marks.
For example, if you want to find out specific clam picking locations in Washington, you could search "Where is the best place to pick clams in Washington state?"
Step 3. Use some search engine customizations to focus or discard certain results
Depending on what the question is, you might find some browser customizations helpful. Try some of these specs to narrow your search results:
- (-): remove a word (for example, you can type “-cats” to remove results that include cats)
- (~): include synonyms (for example, you can enter "~ funny" to include some synonyms such as entertaining or funny)
- (*): includes some relevant terms (for example, "mathematics *" may include "algebra" or "statistics")
- (O) includes one or the other term (for example, "cats OR dogs" includes either cats or dogs)
- For example, if you want to find the best resources for studying statistics, including the relevant terms except “trigonometry,” you could search “What are the best statistics learning resources *? -trigonometry".
Step 4. Limit the time period to get more relevant results
If the question refers specifically to a recent event, most search engines allow you to narrow the results to a specific publication date. For example, if you use Google, you can click on "Tools" and then adjust the "From any date" button to a more suitable date for the question.
For example, you could search for "Where will the 2020 Olympics be held?" and restrict the results to 2016 onwards
Step 5. Ask your smart home device questions, if necessary
If you have a smart home device (like Siri or Alexa), you can ask it to look up some questions and find the results. Say the question out loud clearly and at a distance audible to your device so that it can find the answer for itself or search for it for you.
- For example, you could ask, "Where is the closest pizza delivery service located and what time does it close?"
- Many smartphones also have a similar feature that allows you to ask questions out loud. If yours allows you to, ask the question with the same technique.
Method 2 of 3: Do a Deeper Research
Step 1. Use an online encyclopedia to answer the educational questions
If you have an academic question, you may be able to find the answer in an encyclopedia on the Internet. Visit your preferred online encyclopedia and search for a term related to the question. Then go through the article to find the relevant information.
- For example, if your question is "Where was Vincent van Gogh born?" You can look up his name in an online encyclopedia and read the beginning of his biography.
- Some popular online encyclopedias include Wikipedia, Scholarpedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Infoplease, and HighBeam Encyclopedia.
Step 2. Check out some videos, lectures and academic articles
To find an accurate, peer-reviewed answer, academic websites are the best place to look. Search the site for articles, lectures, and videos relevant to the question, to gather research to help you find the answer.
- Some popular academic sites include Academia, JSTOR, and Bartleby.
- For example, if your question is "How can I make a diagram of the life cycle of belugas?", You could search for lectures or articles on the life expectancy of belugas.
Step 3. Research the question on some specialized websites
Look for some websites that relate to the topic of the question. Use the site's search engine to ask the question or search the related pages.
For example, if your question is "Which Italian restaurant in my city has the best reviews?" You can check on Yelp
Step 4. Ask basic questions or ask for advice on a forum or question-and-answer site
If you have a simple question that could benefit from a diversity of perspectives, post it on a question and answer site or forum. Users of the site can give you the advice you need and guide you in the right direction to solve your problems.
- Some popular question and answer sites include Quora, Reddit, and Yahoo! Answers.
- These sites may be less useful for asking research questions, as they tend to have less credibility than academic sites.
Step 5. Visit a library reception for help with research
If you have difficulty doing your own research, visit a local library and ask the question. The staff can direct you to a few articles, books, and websites that will most likely answer the question.
In particular, university libraries are equipped to answer research questions, and many provide their services for free or at a low fee to non-students
Method 3 of 3: Get in touch with professionals in a certain field
Step 1. Find some professionals in a field that relates to the question
Use a search engine or an academic website to find professionals who study the field covered by the question. Make a list of professionals you could contact, based on their experience and relevance to the question.
For example, if you have a question about dinosaurs of the Jurassic period, you can search for "Jurassic period paleontologists."
Step 2. Search the Internet for their contact information
After making your list of professionals to contact, look up their email address in a search engine. If you can't find his contact information, you can try to contact the place where he works or contact another professional.
- Many professionals work as researchers or professors at a university. If this is the case of the person you want to contact, you can contact the university where they work to request their email address.
- For example, if you are looking for the contact information for Dr. Jake Smith and he works at the University of Cambridge, you could search for “Dr. Jake Smith University of Cambridge”.
Step 3. Ask the question in a concise and respectful email
When you've found the contact information, write a formal email asking the question and thanking the person for their time. For example, you can write the following:
Dear Dr. Smith:
Hi there! My name is Juan and I am a student at Harvard University. I really enjoyed reading your research on 20th century art history and I have a question about Salvador Dalí. Would you consider your early works to be part of Surrealism or Dadaism, and why? I am fascinated by surrealism and I was curious to know how Dalí's work matured into that art form over time. Thank you very much for your help!
Greetings, Juan Perez
- If the professional doesn't have an email, but you do find a mailing address, you have the option of sending them a letter.
Step 4. Send the email or letter and wait
After you've sent the email, wait several weeks for the professional to respond. If 1-2 months pass and they don't respond, please verify their contact information or send them a short follow-up email.
After you send him the first follow-up email, do not contact him again, but wait until he contacts you first. You may be too busy right now to answer the question
- If the question you want to answer is for a research project, don't forget to cite all the information you find to avoid plagiarism.
- Save the answers you find, along with the sources, on the phone or on a piece of paper to make sure you have access to them later.