Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Teach a Man to Fish" or How to Answer Questions

As many readers may have noticed, I spend time in various genealogy groups on Facebook. Some of those groups deal with areas of Canada where I am doing research for my own lines. Yet several of the other groups deal in general genealogy and family history research questions and problems. Previously I've written about how to write "good" questions but what about writing good answers?

We've all seen the posting on forums along the lines of "I've looked everywhere but I can't find ____ can anyone help me?

Many times an answer is just presented as a fait accompli with no additional information as to how the documents or details were found. Of course the person receiving the information may be ecstatic because you've helped them out but have they actually learned more about the resources available. If they haven't learned where it was found then they will just dip into that well again in the hopes that someone will help them again. Instead, think about doing the following:

  1. At the top of your response, give the answer
  2. Next, give the source of where you found the information
  3. Finally, explain how you found the details

Yes it can make for a long post but you will not just be educating the original poster but also those that read the message thread. You will also be helping yourself since you now need to take the time to explain how something was found. This means you have to organize your thoughts and write them down so that others can understand the process you went through to find the solution.

So it comes down to "... if you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour; if you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn"

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post and observation(s). If you don't mind I'd like to share this post on both the FB Group and Product / Services page(s).