Sunday, September 29, 2013

Asking Questions at Seminars, Colloquia, ...

The best questions asked at seminars are pointed and clear, and focus on the work being presented. If you have comments, you can preface your remarks saying something like, I would like to add a comment, but do have a short question at the end. Don't go on very long, at all.

Technical questions about method must have real import for the work. That you can think of a hypothesis that was not tested is only interesting if the hypothesis is important and it is relevant to the work at hand. Asking about colinearity, or about some statistical technicality, should be about the work's consequences, not just a technical point.

Assume that your job is to make the work better. If it is awful, just walk out.

If you tend to wander in your questioning, it helps to write out your question before you speak.

Don't worry if your question is too simple. A good speaker knows how to make the answer interesting. Often, others in the audience want to ask the question, but are too shy.

In one seminar I go to, most of the questioners begin with, I thought this was a very interesting paper, and then they ask questions.

Rather than asking, Did you test for...., ask, What would be the effect of ....

There will be speakers who dismiss your question. There is nothing you can do then and there, but there is no reason not to write them a note afterward elaborating on your question.

In my experience there are what might be called devastating questions, where you have no response. If you don't, for whatever reason, promise to get back to the questioner later or right after the talk.

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