The following question was closed for being "unclear what you're asking": https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/2141492/real-roots-to-cubic-equation

As far as I can tell, this is a well-formulated mathematical question that is perfectly clear. (Except for the trivial fact that it is not grammatically a question, but I can't imagine this could possibly be what the fuss was over.)

So what exactly is unclear about it?

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    $\begingroup$ Have you searched the meta at all? We have had the same discussion many times. Also quite recently. A quick summary: the reason to close must be picked from a short list of alternatives, and is not an exact match to whatever motivated the users voting to close this question. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Feb 20 '17 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ I think that If it were grammatically formed as a question it would be more likely to be closed as "missing context". In either case, some may choose "unclear" to mean: "Yes that is a math problem you posed, but what question do you have about it?", which might require a bit of thought to pose, with context/clarity on what the asker is seeking, to make a better question. (E.g., sometimes it turns out that the asker doesn't know what "the question" means, and the question is more about that than the apparent math content.) $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Feb 20 '17 at 22:46
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    $\begingroup$ Also, there could be multiple close reasons chosen by different voters, and the one with a plurality is displayed (in case of a tie I'm not sure how that goes). So this might have had other votes for other reasons, making it harder to analyze based on close reason. Nonetheless the description "clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need," seems to apply here, where emphasis could be placed on "your". $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer Feb 20 '17 at 22:56
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, your question isn't really a question, but a statement: "I need to". $\endgroup$ – mrf Feb 20 '17 at 23:02
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    $\begingroup$ @mrf I am not the person who posted that question. I think it stands to reason that someone who posts a question on this site that says "I need to..." really means "Could you please help me to..." or something very close. Saying that it isn't a question is splitting hairs. $\endgroup$ – user49640 Feb 20 '17 at 23:06
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    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen I don't think that helps the OP much in figuring out how to fix the question, if we even accept that it needs fixing. It's disappointing to me that this is how math questions are dealt with here. $\endgroup$ – user49640 Feb 20 '17 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ Actually, I think it's an interesting question. I'm sorry that it was closed. Most likely, the cubic has one local max and one local min. Three roots will occur if the x-axis is between those extremes. $\endgroup$ – steven gregory Feb 21 '17 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ user49640: Notice that I didn't take a position on whether that question should be closed or not. You have to realize that there is a lot of randomness in the decision to close. We have certainly seen worse questions receive several upvoted answers within minutes. Apparently none of those users who rarely spend time on questions that take more than 1 minute to solve could do this one, and the votes to close for whatever reason started coming in. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Feb 21 '17 at 6:06
  • $\begingroup$ But you are right in that the message does not help the OP fix the question. That is a problem in many a case. Comments could be used when the question is salvageable. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Feb 21 '17 at 6:19
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    $\begingroup$ I do see something unclear in the wording of the question, although after reading it again I was able to work out what was meant. As stated, the question at first seems to say that we are given a particular polynomial and we want to find $c_1$ and $c_2$. However, what is meant is to find $c_1$ and $c_2$ so that the corresponding polynomial will have three roots exactly when $c \in (c_1, c_2)$; the question is about a family of polynomials. In any case, the question lacks all context, such as the source of the problem and its motivation, which is a separate reason for the OP to improve it. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Feb 21 '17 at 12:34

Firstly, the more pertinent reason to close this question is:

Off-Topic: This question is missing context or other details: Please improve the question by providing additional context, which ideally includes your thoughts on the problem and any attempts you have made to solve it. This information helps others identify where you have difficulties and helps them write answers appropriate to your experience level.

The linked Meta post is more than enough to explain why this particular question should be closed. However, it is also true that the question was unclear in the sense described by the message given to the asker (emphasis mine):

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

Notice that it even links to the same Meta post that would be enough for the asker to follow to improve his/her post. The question was closed 9 days ago, yet the asker did not edit the post at all since then.

Finally, 5 votes are needed to close a question, and the 5 voters may give different reasons for closure but only the most frequent reason chosen will be shown to the asker. It could very well be that 2 of them closed as "lacking context" while the other 3 closed it as "unclear".

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    $\begingroup$ By the way I upvoted your Meta question because it is clearly due to a misunderstanding of the meaning of "unclear" that Math SE has chosen. Sure, it is clear what is the mathematical question being asked, but it is not clear what are the asker's issues in solving it. $\endgroup$ – user21820 Feb 22 '17 at 9:53

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