EDIT: There is now a new standard close reason that doesn't mention homework.

(No TL;DR, please just read the question.)


The new close reasons contain a designated option for homework questions, viz:

enter image description here

On a few occasions, a user has attempted to counter closures for this reason with the following comment:

The reason offered for closure is nonsense thrice over. (1) Questions are incapable of seeking anything. (2) The apparently automatic assumption that someone who asks a ‘naked’ question like this is merely demanding a solution is ungenerous in the extreme. (And no, calling it on hold rather than closed makes the assumption no less insulting.) (3) Whatever the faults of the question, it certainly isn’t off-topic.

It should be apparent that (1) is valid critique on the formulation, whereas (2) and (3) warrant a debate.

One of the other nuisances I am experiencing myself (and I'm sure I'm not alone) is that:

(4) This close reason is being used on questions not tagged as homework.

Also, as has happened before, there seems to be an increase in volume and decrease in politeness of "Please show your work" calls; at least the volume may be partially due to the lack of an appropriate (in the eyes of the commenter) close reason.

Questions / Debate instigators

Long story short:

  • Ad (2): Do we assume good faith on the part of the asker, or do we go exclusively on what's provided to us?
  • Ad (3): Is closing as "off-topic" warranted when a question violates the requirements on context cq. work shown?
  • Ad (4): If not the above, how can we make it sufficiently clear that context cq. own work are very important?

Below are some things which are related (in one way or another).

The "good question" thread

Lastly, a more tangential call, which is nonetheless relevant if we are ever to resolve this suboptimal situation.

To provide a more consolidated and, above all, clearer exposition of what the community seeks in a question, it is paramount that more work is put into the "How to ask a good question?" thread, and that the question body of that thread becomes a good summary, which we can include in the "help center" on main (hopefully, on a visible place).


There are heaps of "literature" on the above matter. I won't blame you for not reading everything... Also, feel free to add further relevant links.


Debate on on/off-topicness of PSQs:

Question guidelines:

Behavioural policies:

  • 14
    $\begingroup$ One underlying problem is that the "off-topic" group of reasons isn't appropriately named. It is designed to contain all site-specific reasons, whatever they may be. E.g., "here's my [long] code that does not work; why?" questions are closed as "off-topic" on StackOverflow despite obviously being about programming. It has been proposed to rename the off-topic close reason, possibly to "Site-Specific Reason", or "Off-limits". $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '13 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ So, the questions you are asking are the three items just after the mention "Long story short", right? $\endgroup$
    – Did
    Jun 28 '13 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ @Did Yes (right below the heading "Questions / Debate instigators"). I've clarified. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Jun 28 '13 at 14:35
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ "Off-topic" seems like a good header for something you wish to move elsewhere (where it might be on-topic), but for crap we just don't want to have here the header might be "out-of-scope." $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Jun 28 '13 at 16:38
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ (2) Assuming good faith is going by what’s given us and should be the default; that’s just common courtesy. (3) No. (4) We can ask for it and hope for the best. // A further problem is that these closures are being made very inconsistently. I’ve even seen the same user vote to close one question on this basis and edit another question, also asked without context, into prettier format without voting to close or even leaving a comment advising the OP to improve the question. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '13 at 20:41
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @Brian Answers are given inconsistently; votes are cast inconsistently; people view questions inconsistently; suggested edits are approved inconsistently; and indeed, casting close votes is done inconsistently -- I for one am not surprised. One should not care so much about a single person (who knows, they may have had a discussion with OP on chat just before which provided them context), but on the actions of the community as a whole. As long as we're not reopening, undoing others' valid actions or otherwise contradicting our own policies, there should be no problem. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Jun 28 '13 at 22:23
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I disagree vehemently. Inconsistency in up- and down-voting has little real effect; inconsistency in closing questions of this type has a real effect and is grossly unfair. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '13 at 22:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Brian You missed the point, which was that it shouldn't matter if one user votes consistently, as long as the community overall does vote consistently. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Jun 28 '13 at 22:38
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ No, I did not miss the point. I mentioned that particular user to show that there isn’t even consistency within the individual; there’s even less across individuals. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '13 at 22:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Brian What exactly is your point? I said that we should consider the actions of the community as a whole, and that these should be consistent, and then your only point is a claim that such is not the case -- which to me doesn't sound like disagreement with either of these things. In fact, the only point to disagree with was "One should not care so much about a single person", but you claimed you didn't intend to. I'm afraid I don't follow you. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Jun 28 '13 at 22:52
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ My point is that on present evidence we’re very unlikely to get real consistency on this matter, so we’re very likely to find ourselves not just being unfair to new users, but being obviously unfair. I don’t know why anyone would find that acceptable. You can of course argue that things will improve, but in the meantime we still come across unfavorably. And in any case I consider one of the two consistent positions entirely unacceptable. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '13 at 22:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Brian Please consider converting (part of) this comment chain into an answer (because it effectively is one). That way, people can vote on it, and it will have a dedicated place for responses. $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Jun 29 '13 at 13:29

I propose that we just be more sincere and direct about the reason for closure; why wouldn't we introduce 'not enough/too little research effort shown - please check whether you have included your own work'? Since this is basically what most people are trying to say when voting for closure in such cases, I think this (or any formulation similar to this one) is the most candid and clear way of formulation.

Personally, I don't think this is offensive and I would even argue that people are less offended when they receive a notification for closure/on-hold that is to the point. I would say that vague statements do not cover the true incentive for closure, and are only cause for more displeasure to the user that receives them. It is often better to know that the standards that this forum has are high and that thus certain things are demanded of you when posting, than to see your question closed for some vague and/or confusing reason (especially for those that are new to this forum).

Although that is not what you ask, I would like to add that I would also add such a formulation to the possible reasons for 'flagging' a question.

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Candor would be good. I will be candid: while an honest statement of the reason would be an improvement, the reason itself stinks. $\endgroup$ Jun 28 '13 at 22:40
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Concerning the flagging remark: the dialog for Flags-to-Close has the same pre-written reasons as for Votes-to-Close: flag -> "does not belong here"-> "off-topic because...". I think these are not maintained separately. The only difference is that the flag-to-close dialog does not have the option of a write-in reason. $\endgroup$ Jun 29 '13 at 0:00

I agree with rbm but I want to write an answer separately to say: the term "homework" in particular should not be in the reason. I have some faith in my ability to tell whether a question is just a problem statement that does not demonstrate much effort. I have less faith in my ability to tell which questions are homework.

We had discussed the wording of this reason at https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/a/9958/630 and the term "homework" does not appear in the text there. I have no idea how it crept into the close dialog box.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Perhaps the "homework" one was already there by default? In that case, the problem is that the additional closure reason has not been added - how do we achieve that? $\endgroup$ Jul 2 '13 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ A close reason which is much closer to that one (without the controversial "quality standards" bit) seems to have been added today. $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '13 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Peter Taylor: thanks for that note! This had been requested at meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/10460/… and the moderators seem to have put it in place now. $\endgroup$ Sep 13 '13 at 13:24

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