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Legal Research: Smart Questions Lead to Smart Answers
“How do I un-bake a cake?”
This is a perfect question for “Ask a stupid question day,” which we celebrated last week (September 28th). Now, this started out as a day to encourage kids to ask questions in school. The idea was that there are no stupid questions.
Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the case?
Unfortunately, some questions out there are really cringeworthy. Especially when they’re posted on the internet. For a few laughs (and maybe an eye twitch or two), check out these 12 ridiculous questions. My personal favorite is:
“How do I download the internet?”
Not something from the internet, but the internet in its entirety. Thankfully, not all questions are that stupid.
Here’s a question for you:
Is it legal for a man to marry his widow’s sister?
Trick question. To make his wife a widow, he’d have to be dead first, and dead people don’t get married.
Let’s try another one:
What goes both up and down, but never moves?
If you guessed “stairs,” you’re right.
These kinds of riddles are fun to toss around at parties and see how many of your friends can figure them out. Hopefully, you get more laughs than groans.
But these questions are just neat party tricks. What about questions with a little more power?
What comes to mind when you hear the question: “Who ya gonna call?” I’d be surprised if your first thought wasn’t “Ghostbusters!” A question from a movie can sometimes symbolize the entire movie. If I said, “Do you feel lucky, punk,” you probably know that I’m quoting “Dirty Harry.”
You can see these questions completely out of context, like on a t-shirt or bumper sticker, but still know exactly what’s being referenced. These famous movie questions redirect our thoughts and force us to think about specific movies. They have the power to shape our thinking.
Similarly, our questions can be shaped to empower our ability to ask. Fast Company has a list of ways you can ask better questions. For example, to get the best, most useful response, one of the best questions you can ask is “why?”
Asking “why” keeps the question open ended.
And when asking important questions, avoid sounding accusatory or condescending. If people feel like they’re being attacked or treated like a toddler, they won’t give you the best answer. That’s the whole point of asking the question, right?
A good question gets you an accurate, precise answer, whether you’re asking a human being or performing legal research. And just like asking a human being, you want your research questions to be answered clearly and concisely.
Lexis Advance® has a feature called Lexis® Answers that does just that. You can quickly and easily get answers to your research questions, complete with links to the specific place in the document that has your answers. You don’t have to scroll through the entire document to find that one part you’re looking for.
So if you're a lawyer who celebrated Stupid Question Day, remember: not every question and answer has to make you cringe. There are some questions and some answers (smart ones) that can lead to deep research results.