Is it a good question to ask people what did they try? Where did they get stuck?

Someone asks a question and someone else asks him/her what did you try? If the one who will answer sees that the one who asks the question does not deserve the answer than the one who will answer simply can ignore the one who asks the question.

I do not see any advantage of saying what did you try? Am I right?

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Regardless of what you think about using WDYT here, it's just all-around good advice in real life. Quite often I find that verbalizing what I've already tried leads me to solve my problem. Failing that, it usually turns up another route to pursue. When I'm really out of options, and I explain everything I've tried, the person I'm asking will be in a much better position to help. Perhaps they will immediately see I overlooked something on one of those attempts, or else they will be glad we don't have to reconsider the dead ends. $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 14:03
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    $\begingroup$ Why such an avalanche of downvotes? $\endgroup$
    – Etienne
    Commented Apr 14, 2014 at 18:47

2 Answers 2


It really depends on the situation. Sometimes asking "what have you tried?" is indeed useless. However, a lot of time it does give us some useful information.

  1. By showing what the questioner has tried. One get a grip on the questioner's level of mathematical sophistication. One can taylor make an answer which the questioner can understand.
  2. Another very common case is the questioner misunderstand some basic concept. If the questioner doesn't show what has he/she tried, we will never know what the questioner is missing. No matter how good an answer is, it won't help the questioner until his/her basic mis-undertanding is corrected.

Of course, the real reason that most people asking "what have you tried?" simply because there are too many "problem statement question". Remember, people here doesn't get paid by answering question.

  • Why should we spoon feed answers to those who just want an answer instead of learning mathematics?
  • Why should we help those who don't want to help themselves?
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Achille, very right. There is one exception, as you and I know well, when people ask "What have you tried?" in the face of a challenging integral. Rather than help, I find it annoying and fear it turns off those who contribute to the site by posting challenging problems for us to solve. $\endgroup$
    – Ron Gordon
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ @RonGordon In that case, assume the questioner doesn't provide other context, I'm neutral whether people should ask the "What have you tried?" question or not. People who like posting challenging problems won't be scared away by this minor annoyance. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 21:45
  • $\begingroup$ Great post, achille! $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 14:04

I do not see any advantage of posting such comments, either. Posting a comment takes time, and "what have you tried?" does not add any information. This is why I prefer to simply downvote and vote to close. (I believe the technical term for this combination is downclose.)

At least we don't (yet) have a StackOverflow-sized problem with this:


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    $\begingroup$ Just downvoting and voting to close does not communicate to the author what needs to be done. If the reason is that the author did not show any work, why not tell them that? $\endgroup$
    – robjohn Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ Good but If I tell them that what will change? The author can said and show something that he/she never try anyway, Am I right? $\endgroup$
    – zighalo
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ Alice in Chains had a song "Down in a Close", about downclosing. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 19:48
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    $\begingroup$ Some people will change (whether told directly, or observing someone else being told). How much effort to spend reaching out to those people is a harder question, since you can't know beforehand who's who. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Apr 9, 2014 at 20:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl God will know His own. $\endgroup$
    – user127096
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 5:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Hurkyl I don't think saying "What have you tried?" counts as "effort". $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 8:17
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    $\begingroup$ @cheap: That's a pretty terrible thing to juxtapose. Confusing too; since you seem to be advocating "close without comment" that such a juxtaposition is presumably meant to condemn. $\endgroup$
    – user14972
    Commented Apr 10, 2014 at 16:11

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