I've read the responses, and still feel that my concern is not being addressed. I am leaving my original query/suggestion as is, below the (====...) line, merely for reference. Also, I respect needing to preserve a "boiler-plate" help front end across stack exchange forums.

I certainly think that questioners sometimes abuse the privilege by dumping the question as is with no preliminary effort made. However, I also think that sometimes the questioner is so overwhelmed by the problem that they absolutely need preliminary assistance from a human. The following link is a case in point:short Linear Algebra / Orthogonality quiz

I believe the questioner was truly baffled rather than lazy, with the situation perhaps compounded by language difficulties. Consequently, I commented with the advice originally contained in this question. In fact, that situation triggered this suggestion.

In my opinion, the most constructive first step for such a questioner is to find a helpful human, rather than attempting research on their own. I certainly respect that this site can't generally function as the initial helpful human. However, this simply implies that the questioner needs to be given clear instructions on how to find a helpful human elsewhere. Note that this approach (slyly) defeats the abusive questioner giving him no place to hide.

In short, I think that the math help area should offer advice on finding a "helpful human" perhaps similar to the advice that I offered. Further, it is important that such advice be so prominent that the baffled questioner will immediately notice it.


Unsure if this the appropriate forum : this is a suggestion rather than a question. I examined a previous post that discussed guidelines for when the questioner claims "I don't know where to begin." I suggest editing your https://math.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask webpage so that it begins with the following section:

What if I don't know where to begin?

Review your course work up to that point. Explore the (presumably simpler) examples that your teacher or your textbook worked through, when the topic was introduced. Ask your teacher, a tutor, or a classmate to walk you through a problem that is related, but simpler and clearly distinct. Then, you should know where to begin. Once you get past that point yourself, if you are still having difficulty, be sure to include your partial work when you post the question.

  • $\begingroup$ Something like this?. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 19, 2018 at 16:00
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Possible duplicate of How to ask a good question. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 19, 2018 at 16:01
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ See also "Is it reasonable to have no clue". $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 19, 2018 at 16:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ And this one: How to prevent "no clue" questions? $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 19, 2018 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ I think the premise that something can be "so prominent that the baffled questioner will immediately notice it" is flawed. So few people read the help center or see the site tour before posting, and people will simply ignore any advice there in the hope that their question gets answered anyways (which is typically a reasonable hope...). $\endgroup$
    – user296602
    Mar 19, 2018 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ @user296602 agreed, as far as you took it. However, my intent is that when a responder directs the (possibly) baffled questioner to the specific portion of the help area containing the helpful-human advice the baffled one will be helped and the abusive one will be trapped. Anytime the questioner ignores such a direct instruction, I would then agree that we've done all that we reasonably could. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2018 at 21:42

2 Answers 2


Here's what I think (and also base on a page I read here):

  • "What if I don't know where to begin" is not an acceptable reason to have only the problem stated in your question.

  • If it is a geometry problem, show the community what methods and theorems did you use (or fail to use because it can't be applied), it's also best to post the figure along, drawn on paper or by Sketchpad, Geogebra.

  • If it is a inequality or min-max problem, attempt by guessing when does the equality hold.

  • If it is an induction problem (i.e for all natural numbers $n$), attempt by proving it true for $n=1;n=2;n=3;...$

  • If the problem involves large numbers, attempt the smaller numbers first.

  • Post along with the "note" for an uncommon definition (or any definition also works) to make sure that you have at least seen the problem.

  • NEVER, EVER state that you need the solution immediately (or urgently), as the site is for asking and answering for the entire community, not just for you.

Probably creating the new page with that title, and note some ways to ask a good question, combined your suggestions and that page together will be good.


For your specific request mentioned in the post: sorry, that is not possible. The page you linked to is a boilerplate that is the same across all Stack Exchange sites. While some parts of the help center is customizable by moderators, many parts, including the page "How do I ask a good question" are not.

The moderators do try to insert the relevant information on the editable pages. See, for example, this help center page on "on topic" questions which includes a link to the Meta discussion on how to ask a good question.


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