Recently, this question was closed as "not being about maths". I think that this closure is worthy of further discussion.

Basically, I believe that finding papers (especially old ones, or translations of foreign ones) is difficult, and is an important skill in any subject. However, with maths it is a skill best learned from other mathematicians (we have MathSciNet, for example). Therefore, I believe that this question should have been either,

  1. Left open.
  2. Migrated to MathOverflow.
  3. Migrated to Academia.SE

I do not know how MathOverflow would treat such a question, and I do not know if migrating to Academia.SE would yield an answer. However, either option is better than simply "closure".

Also, I do not see how such a question is less about mathematics than any other reference request...

What do you think should have happened to such a question, and why?

For a personal anecdote about why I think asking others about finding papers is good: In the first year of my PhD I spent a long time trying to find a pair of 1940s Russian papers, from a journal which didn't seem to exist until 1967. I managed to track down a MathSciNet article, but it was in German. My library and librarian were of no help. In the end, I found a recent citation and e-mailed the authors, who sent me a link to the original paper and a 1980s English paper which proved an equivalent result in a different way, and they gave me a brief summary of the difference between "USSR: Sbornik" (Russian Journal, since 1860s) and "Matematicheskii Sbornik" (English translation of said journal, since 1967).

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    $\begingroup$ It was posted to MO (mathoverflow.net/questions/185045/…) and got an answer. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ As there are no comments to the effect of "don't double post", and going by the close reason, I think it is fair to assume (for the moment, unless one of the closers corrects me) that the double-posting was not the reason for the closure, but that the actual question was. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Oct 22, 2014 at 12:30
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, I believe the question is certainly more on-topic here than on Academia.SE. $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    Oct 22, 2014 at 20:26
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    $\begingroup$ I didn't mean to imply that the question was closed because of the double-posting; I just thought the information might be of interest. Well, also I found it curious that the question would be closed on m.se but answered on MO. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 21:57
  • $\begingroup$ The link to this reference material was also posted by AStudent in the comments 2 hours after the OP posted here in our actual MSE post. The MO answer beat that comment by a substantial time, and closure here made perfect sense. I recall hitting skip in review queue on this. Had I researched, I may or may not have seen it as a time simultaneous cross post. Reasonably hard to find reference requests for antiquated material qualify as good questions here in my convinced opinion. I am familiar with where this was found, but a google search might not get many people to this piece of literature. $\endgroup$ Oct 23, 2014 at 5:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Gerry Sorry, my comment wasn't because I thought you were implying that. Rather, I was afraid that someone might claim that that was the close reason, so I thought I would nip that chain of thought in the bud. $\endgroup$
    – user1729
    Oct 23, 2014 at 8:47
  • $\begingroup$ This seemed contrary to the other uses of the reference, so I removed it. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Oct 24, 2014 at 2:47

1 Answer 1


Many such questions have been asked in the past - just have look on the result of this Google search or similar search on the main site. From what I have seen, I'd say that they were generally well-received. Such questions also seem to be common on MathOverflow.

Personally I do not have anything against questions asking for finding individual papers. (Although I would understand downvoting or even closing a question where it was very easy to find the paper - for lack of research effort.)

But I think that it might be useful to have also more general questions. (For example if I look for an old paper from Topology and Its Applications I might add to my question also something like this, to make the question more general: I see that the volumes since 2000 are available on Elsevier website. Is there a way to find papers from older volumes?1) Or maybe even if the question is not asked in a general way, answerer should mention how and where they were able to find the paper (in the teach how to fish spirit).

Or even some post collecting various resources, where journals can be found, might be useful. The following question is formulated like this: Finding a paper (It also mentions the specific paper which the OP was after, but it is formulated as a general question about finding papers.)

1This is a fictional example, all volumes of Topol. Appl. seem to be available online.


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