Short description of how to ask a question well?

The volume of people asking questions badly on the OpenMRS lists seems pretty high right now, and I would like to be able to reply to people with a one liner saying “please state your question more effectively. read [this link]”.

In some very quick searching I came across way-too-long things like this and this.

Do any of you have a good link to a short description that focuses on the minimal points to asking a good question, and is written for an audience that may not speak English well?

E.g. I don’t want to ask people to spend time trying to fix their grammar, but I do want them to understand that they need to (a) describe what they did, and (b) give an exact error message.

cc: @dkayiwa, @wyclif, @raff, @k_joseph, @burke, @michael


I find somehow able to address such an audience; ‘non fluent English speakers’;

  • In understandable summarized language, describe what you did to see things messed up, this helps a potential helper to reproduce the same issue you want to deal with.
  • In-case you notice any non-usual/unfamiliar behavior, i.e. some non clear text message that looks non-understandable to you, make it a must to take a screenshot and/or copy it into a text file and attach the file and/or screenshot onto your question.
  • Keep watching your question often times for answers or providing more information just in-case the answering team needs to know more.

Here are some other useful links i have found useful related to this: and

how to ask questions the smart way should be required reading. I try to maintain my patience when people don’t follow this and sometimes it is REALLY hard. But one thing we need to take into account is that English is not always their first language – when they try – their effort matters.


I am doing some research on this. Thanks @k_joseph for those links. I think the Stack howto’s are the best I’ve seen.

As you’ve probably seen, we can provide a template for Ask OpenMRS (or other categories). But as people have pointed out it’s generally difficult to find tips that are concise.

I no longer recommend ESR’s long piece, although I still agree with it.

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I firmly believe that we need better questions and need to (tactfully) tell users who ask questions poorly to reword their questions so that they are actually valuable :smile:

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I encourage everyone who notices a poorly-worded question to use the “flag” button on each post to either send a private message to the author, or to inform moderators to contact them to try to improve the post.

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Any chance we can have a one-click action that sends a canned response?

I have been pushing for that to be added to Discourse for a while now! :disappointed:

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be on the roadmap yet although the discussion last year is it’d be included when they expanded to handle some rudimentary issue tracking features. (That’s still in their equivalent of “OpenMRS Someday”.)

So it’d have to either be a Discourse plugin, or I’m thinking about hacking on a greasemonkey-style user script to do it. Personally, I have a text file of canned responses and tips that I copy & paste from quite a bit so it will start there.

Meanwhile, I want to add a section to the Talk FAQ that is a synthesis of some of these good links and anything else I can dig up. We’ll then include that in the template for new topics, which will hopefully help somewhat.

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