There have been a couple of threads here in the past about how to effectively ask questions, but none that I could find on how to answer.

I vacillate between just answering the question, and trying to find out what context it's being asked in and then proposing a completely different solution. What's the right way?

The latter is more helpful for newbies, although at the expense of taking longer to get them an answer and pissing off more experienced supplicants. The former is more useful to experienced supplicants, but at the expense of leading novices down dark alleys full of muggers.