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I have no sympathy for people just copying the text of the homework questions to the site (sometimes they even scan the page, to avoid having to write the text...)

On the other side, I believe that there are many people who would really just have a hint to take the right way to demonstrate the result they need. However, if someone is not used to the site it is not easy to state in advance what have they tried, or better to explain the context where they had received the problem.

So I wonder if the side column "How to ask" could be expanded a bit with a direct link to a FAQ "is yours a homework question?". (Having the side column on the left side would help a lot, but I don't think it's a viable path)

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    $\begingroup$ So, scanning the text is not allowed? $\endgroup$ – kou Feb 1 '14 at 6:23
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    $\begingroup$ @user3222184 See meta.math.stackexchange.com/questions/1805/… $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Feb 1 '14 at 11:22
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that many people just post contextless homework questions which would be fitted much better with an answer that was more of a hint (since straight up just answering questions like that is not fruitful for anyone), but then again, some people do use the site for homework and that's perfectly OK in my opinion. If they refuse to post context (educational background, what they've done, etc.) they will be met with fewer answers with hints of lower relevance to their level. $\endgroup$ – MCT Feb 2 '14 at 4:43
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    $\begingroup$ As if expanding the column would help... $\endgroup$ – Dunno Feb 6 '14 at 11:23
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If it is homework or not, it is just rude to dump a question with no work and no context here.

A sidebar shouldn't say "homework" (there are other lazy askers) but I very much agree with OP's sentiment. And make a "it shows no real interest/effort in asking" reason for closing.

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  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that people who are too lazy to put any effort into their question aren't going to put any effort into reading the sidebar. $\endgroup$ – Peter Taylor Feb 13 '14 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterTaylor, but those that put effort into answering do, and I won't feel bad closing the question. $\endgroup$ – vonbrand Feb 13 '14 at 12:15
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I believe a good "how to ask" page would be a really nice thing. In it, some points should be explained:

  • on this site, always use MathJax to write the formulas
  • A question must be well formed: state the assumptions you have and the statement you need to clarify or prove, just like your math professor would.
  • There must be some proof that some effort has been put into the work before asking. This does not need to be a result, it may be an idea that led to a dead end, some thoughts that seem to be going in the right direction but you are stuck at and so on
  • Use paragraphs! For example, write your assumptions and definitions in paragraph 1, your question (prove/expand/disprove...) in paragraph 2 and your work, ideas and suggestions in paragraph 3.

Another thing I think the site needs is one more option: put the question on hold for the reason: "Author seems to have put zero effort in question before asking it".

And one more suggestion: questions with any sort of scan should be put on hold, for 2 reasons:

  1. The authors must show some effort, and at least writing the question down makes sure they did some work before asking it
  2. The scans really mess up the page. Visually, they make the whole site look like a mess.

EDIT: As was pointed out in the comments by Joel Reyes Noche:

Scans are also used so that the question is difficult to search. Perfect for students trying to hide from their teachers their requests for homework answers.

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    $\begingroup$ Scans are also used so that the question is difficult to search. Perfect for students trying to hide from their teachers their requests for homework answers. $\endgroup$ – Joel Reyes Noche Feb 7 '14 at 11:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JoelReyesNoche Yes, you make an excellent point. Math SE should not be a website that undermines school instruction, despite the multitude of self-described auto-didacts whose genius only flourished once freed from the constraint of tyrannical authority... sigh. $\endgroup$ – Ellie Kesselman Feb 8 '14 at 18:00
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    $\begingroup$ I would upvote, except I don't think we should require new users to learn MathJax/LaTeX just to be able to ask a question. $\endgroup$ – Henning Makholm Feb 9 '14 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ You wrote: put the question on hold for the reason: "Author seems to have put zero effort in question before asking it". I thought that this is what "lack of context" close reason is for. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Feb 9 '14 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak, you (and many others) might understand that, I feel unconfortable giving that reason to close. And I'm sure the respective OP doesn't understand at all, having presumably spent all of 5 minutes here. $\endgroup$ – vonbrand Feb 13 '14 at 13:26
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    $\begingroup$ @HenningMakholm, agree on the MathJax point. Besides, there are lots of volunteers here (myself included) who will gladly do the reformatting anyway. $\endgroup$ – vonbrand Feb 13 '14 at 13:28

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