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After recalling Eric Steven Raymond and Rick Moen's How to Ask Questions The Smart Way and a discussion in a systems engineering course regarding the impact of the proper formulation of a problem in order to achieve the optimal solution(s), I began to look for research into methodologies that can be used to formulate a question prior to asking it.

In Raymond and Moen's post, they have a few short lines touching on what I'm referring to. They mention to prepare your question by thinking it through and to beware of asking questions based on false assumptions. However, I'm more interested in psychological research into how people go about these activities, preferably in some kind of methodology or framework that can be applied to assess how one is formulating questions or even how to go about forming a question that can then go through a methodology similar to Raymond and Moen's process.

Searching for information about asking questions has so far yielded things about creating surveys with effective questions and how questions can influence answers. Perhaps I'm not using the right terms or looking in the right fields.

I found the term "problem shaping" on Wikipedia. The article (which is a stub) describes the concept that I'm looking for. However, I checked into the related articles and they don't appear to describe anything that I'm looking for in more depth. The "see also" pages appear to focus on topics related to problem solving, not actually formulating and shaping the problem. It seems that in order to effectively solve the problem, you need an appropriately formulated problem statement, yet I can't find anything about the methodologies or processes to do so stated formally.

My specific questions:

  • Is there any research (of any level of scientific rigor) in the frameworks or processes of developing a good question or problem statement?
  • If so, what are some examples of work done and what information or products have been generated?
  • If not, what topics might be used to provide insights to gain a deeper understanding of the formulation of questions or problem statements?
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