Basically, I'd like to have a simple list of (possibly conditional) questions to answer to get a skeleton society which you then can flesh out, making sure that all important aspects are covered.
Note that I'm not after the details (that would be the "flesh-out" part), but really the fundamentals (like "what form of government is there?").
About the example of an aquatic vs. land-based culture in the comments: A basic question could be: "What sort of environment (land, water, air, space, …) does the culture dominantly live in?" However a question like "How do they deal with the high pressure in the deep sea?" would be too specific (but "How do they deal with the special challenges of their environment?" again would probably be a question that would make sense to have in the list).