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There are currently (as far as I know) three community wiki questions with largely the same premise: book recommendations for self-studying abstract algebra. They are

There is the obvious argument against merging: each of the three question askers specified a set of personal background in mathematics. So in some sense the three questions are similar in spirit but different in essence...

...that is, until you read the answers. Many of the answers provided so far do not make any mention to the specific "requirements" that the OP specified in the question, and can equally well be placed on any of the three questions.

My question: should the three questions be merged into one?

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    $\begingroup$ The answerer may well have taken into account the OP's specific requirements without specifically saying so in the answer (as did I in the second question). The first two questions have different requirements. Such requirements are common enough to be of use to other students in similar circumstances. So I don't think they should be merged. The third question doesn't provide enough context to make specific recommendations. $\endgroup$ – Bill Dubuque Aug 2 '11 at 0:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Bill: would you care to put that into an answer? Since this question is soliciting opinions, I think it'd be better that way. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Aug 2 '11 at 1:23
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    $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I'm not very much in favor of merging two well-posed questions (only the third of those listed questions could come from just about anybody). Linking them together properly should be sufficient. The minor increase in convenience of the visitors achieved by that merge hardly outweighs the disrespect to the OPs. Whatever Creative Commons says. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 2 '11 at 21:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Theo: a follow up question to your argument then, becomes: do we really want to encourage so many different versions of book recommendation questions? And at what point should we start closing them as "too localised"? $\endgroup$ – Willie Wong Aug 3 '11 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ Oy... There are 509 reference-requests already. Hm... I was about to suggest an FAQ entry for the most common ones (basic/best book on [whatever undergrad topic]-type) but that would mean a serious amount of effort locating the good ones. I'm not very inclined to do that myself, honestly. Maybe ask a follow up here on meta what other people think? I don't think we should have a general policy on that. I'd be strongly in favour of prohibiting the best ... book ever and also in favour of leaving the personally and carefully formulated ones open as they often come along with some sort of despair. $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 3 '11 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ I guess an FAQ entry would be good, maybe providing some sample searches how you can locate common reference requests. I'd include: please try to avoid asking "how can I self-learn analysis". Make your question specific. Explain your background. Why do you want to learn the topic you're asking references for. Why are the books suggested in your course not good enough? Where do you have gaps, etc. On the other hand this may encourage questions such as "self-contained Stokes exposition". I don't know. Why do people always want to learn from a single book anyway? $\endgroup$ – t.b. Aug 3 '11 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ "prohibiting the best ... book ever" - make that "prohibiting the best X ever" (for whatever X) and I'm with Theo. Requests of that sort make me remember this... $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Aug 4 '11 at 5:40
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My preference (fairly slight) would be to keep the questions separate (due to the personalized nature of the questions, even if not of (most of) the answers), but to edit in a link in each question to the other two questions.

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Absolutely not. It's not the fault of the people who asked the (three distinct and reasonable) questions that the answers weren't precise enough. They should not be treated as if this is to be expected - different backgrounds are a very reasonable thing to ask about and might (maybe even "should") provoke different answers.

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Merging these questions seems like a good idea. After reading the answers I came to the same conclusion about placement of answers. Perhaps the merged question could contains something like: Please explain areas of algebra or methods of presentation in which your recommended book excels.

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