Through my own observations and experience, there appear to be two main ways of aquiring knowledge –
1) active – this is when the question is already there. You want to know the definition of a word, how to fix something, where to find someone. It is highly focused, and well defined.
2) passive – this is almost the search for a question. You have an area of interest (literature, tech, music) and you go for a journey of discovery. Through magazines, conversation, random stumbles, you expand your sphere of understanding.
Quite often the passive path triggers off questions that lead to a more active approach, and other times you think you know what you want to know, but it’s not well-defined enough to really nail down. You need to read around a subject, and pick up some passive understanding.