In the discussion this meta thread it was discovered, that the current custom close reason missing context or other details is much less specific than the other close reasons.
The answer to what is context lists six different bullets defining the scope of the close reason. In short these are

  • Lack of effort ("Include your work")
  • Lack of motivation
  • Missing source
  • Missing mathematical backgroud of OP
  • Missing references
  • Missing definitions

Now while some of these may be combined into one bullet (For example "missing source", and "missing references" could be), this still defines a very wide scope for the close reason, leading to the OP being displayed a close message wich might not accurately address the problems of the post.

On SO there are five custom close reasons, while we only have one here. Adding another one wouldn't be much of a problem. So I propose we narrow down the scope of the "missing context or other details" reason by splitting it into carefully chosen categories.

The goal of this post is to

  1. Find out wich reasons can be grouped into small categories with a uniform and useful description, so than an OP knows exactly why his question was closed
  2. Find a good, informative message for each of these reasons such that misunderstanding is as unlikely as possible

I will now present my idea. Please give feedback on it and also share your own ideas in answers to make this discussion as fruitful as possible. My opinion is subject to change given convincing reasons, so I might edit these accordingly. This is intended to get the discussion started, not to be a call to vote on this special solution.

1. Categories:
I can see three categories:

  • The OP is not putting enough work into the question. This includes showing one's work so far, where a clarification is needed ("I dont get it / need help")
  • The source of the question is unclear. A source can be a book, stating that it's homework from course $C$ or that it resulted from some personal discussions. (I've seen quite a few questions of the form "I've seen on an internet forum that $A=B$. How is that?" with no link given, even after explicit request from fellow users)
  • The question isn't sufficiently self-contained. Definitions used are possibly linked or given a reference to, but not all users may have access to this reference. Therefor a question should include all non-standard definitions it uses. Note that this is closer to unclear what you're asking than the other categories.

2. Formulation:
Suggestions for a suitable formulation for the three categories should be posted as an answer. I'll post a suggestion for a start but feel free to suggest one yourself.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ If you, or others, write sufficiently good custom close reasons and suggest them on meta, the mod team will get together and consider making them available. I don't necessarily think it is or isn't likely, but it is certainly a possibility. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:24
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Just make it as clear and complete as possible, here or elsewhere. Keep in mind that comments are often great supplements to closure, and there is little reason for overly specific closure possibilities. In many ways, the SO model is a good model. They have significantly higher traffic and significantly more closures than we do, and in many cases what works for them will also work for us. $\endgroup$
    – davidlowryduda Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 19:32
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Better suggestion: completely eliminate this highly overloaded closure path, which is too frequently abused to discriminate against valid mathematical questions in every possible way imaginable. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 20:01
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Stay on topic, @Bill, this is a discussion about modifying the close reasons, not deleting them. As for the division proposed in the question, I'm not really sure that's the best possible. Besides, it only covers a few parts of what "missing context" covers. (I'm a bit too tired to suggest concrete improvements though). $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 20:20
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ @Najib Please read more closely. The OP specifically asked "Do we need less [such close reasons]?" I proposed less (zero). So my comment is most certainly on-topic. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 20:24
  • 16
    $\begingroup$ For that matter, I've never liked that it's called "missing context or other details" but filed under "off-topic" when many times it is technically on topic but just missing details. Am I alone in this? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 20:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Stack Overflow has five, besides generic "not about [subject]" and [migrate away]. This is probably as many as can fit into the form. $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 20:53
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @CameronWilliams no you are not alone in this, but it is not possible to change this (except via a change of the software). It is a bit strange. But the way to make sense of it is that "off-topic" is jargon for 'not suitable for the site (in its current form)' Note what is suitable is explained under "on-topic." $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 20:54
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Asaf the standard is three plus a default that is non-selectable once there are custom ones. (Excluding migration and other of course.) The 'not about subject' would be one of the three as it is selectable // As this site is the second largest by new question one might hope for special treatement too. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 21:12
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @AsafKaragila Three is the default mods can use without intervention from SE. But that is pretty much just a sanity check to prevent a site from going too far with overly specific close reasons. If there are good arguments for more close reasons, up to five are enabled. It's just generally a good idea to think a while before using all of the five, more close reasons are not always better. $\endgroup$
    – user9733
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 22:03
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @AlexR I'm in the train right now, writing on my phone isn't very practical... My main problem with your suggestions, I think, is that they rather focus on the symptoms than the underlying problems. Questions missing context are bad because they are of little value for a long term math knowledge depot. If you separate close reasons like that, it looks like every question has to meet these three criteria, but in reality a question has to miss all three to be bad, basically. I don't know if it's clear what I mean. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 15:34
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ -1. This only makes easier the destruction of the site. $\endgroup$
    – OR.
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 21:12
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ @MlazhinkaShungGronzalezLeWy in how far? Could you elaborate your concerns? $\endgroup$
    – AlexR
    Commented Mar 31, 2015 at 21:21
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I doubt you'll get a coherent answer. The words "destruction", "off-topic comments", "unilateral actions"... have all become synonymous with "I don't like it" on meta. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2015 at 8:23
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @DanielV That category is "unclear what you're asking", if it's really unclear what is asked. Otherwise the question doesn't deserve to be closed. You can always leave a comment saying what you just wrote in addition to voting to close. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 8:03

2 Answers 2


Here are my suggestions for the formulation. These are just a very rough mock-up - I'll be glad to incorporate specific suggestions / links etc. If you want to bigger changes, please consider writing your own answer, so the new formulation can be discussed independently.

The OP is not putting enough work into the question

Your question is missing details on how you approached the problem, what you don't understand, what you tried so far and your mathematical background. This information can help others understand your difficulties with the problem and allows to write an answer suited for your understanding.

The source of the question is unclear

The source of this question is unclear. Please add information on where you encountered the problem, possibly referencing a book or a website. Note that questions about on-going contest problems are not allowed on this site and will be locked for the duration of the contest.

The question isn't sufficiently self-contained

When asking a question here, you should try to make it as self-contained as possible. This includes paraphrasing the content of essential links to prevent link rot from making the question useless. Be aware that some definitions vary across different authors so writing down the definitions used in your reference or course can prevent confusion or useless answers.


According to me "The source of the question is unclear. " is not a good reason to close a question. The source can be own studies.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "Source" does not mean it needs to be some external or "official" source. It is perfectly valid, and can be of value, to say: "This problem came up in my investigations on [something]" Fleshing out what this something is a bit. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ @user48672 Of course, and this can be stated in the question so that the source of the question becomes clear. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ That falls under the personal discussions part. For such questions it is beneficial to summarize how you got to the question, for example what you were working on when encountering the question. (For example: I was reviewing some course work for $X$ when I noticed $Y$. Does this hold in general? instead of Does $Y$ hold in general?) $\endgroup$
    – AlexR
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 10:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Under this formukation I agree. $\endgroup$
    – user48672
    Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 10:46

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .