# For titles on questions, which of these is better: Author of the book- Chapter number- Exercise number-, the exercise explicitly or Both?

Regarding the titles on questions,

Is better

1. The author of the book, the chapter number and the exercise number.

2. The exercise as explicit or informative as possible (not always possible tho :( ).

3. Both 1. and 2. (whenever possible).

?

One cons that I find with 1. is that if you don't have the book, then the title will be misleading and probably a waste of time when clicking. And a pro, if you have the book, then the search would be really easy (more easy than 2.) one just need to type for the author of the book, chapter, exercise, and done i.e. no need to type MathJax and check for the all the suggestions (which sometimes none of them have what one is looking for exactly).

See for example, for 1.

https://math.stackexchange.com/search?q=rudin+exercise+chapter+is%3Aq

Edit

• Courant John 4.6 16

then

• Courant John 4.6 Problem 16 - Prove that $$\int\int_R e^{-(x^2+y^2)}dx dy=ae^{-a^2}\int_0^{\infty}\dfrac{e^{-u^2}}{a^2+u^2}du$$

and then

• Prove that $$\iint_R e^{-(x^2+y^2)}\,dx\, dy=ae^{-a^2}\int_0^{\infty}\frac{e^{-u^2}}{a^2+u^2}\,du$$
• Titles are supposed to be as informative about the central problem as possible. The exact location of the question does not do that (although it is useful additional information.) May 14 '20 at 12:04
• IMO it just gets in the way. Worse, it suggests the idea of using this site to compile a solutions manual. Yuck. Pass. May 14 '20 at 19:12

This is a good question.

It depends on the exercise you want to ask.

As you observed, writing the reference alone is less informative. On the other hand, one advantage of adding author + chapter # + exercise # in the title is that it provides precise context. It also helps to avoid the question being targeted as a duplicate mistakenly. An exercise X in book A and book B may have the exact same statement but depend on completely different sets of definitions.

Moreover, some classic or popular textbooks are well-known. Some obstacles in the book when reading are common for many readers and thus they may have very similar questions. Adding the reference in the title makes the question especially more searchable and it helps to avoid posting further duplicates.

Of course, there are very standard exercises in which adding references is not that important; at worst, it is a slight distraction.

... no need to type MathJax and check for all the suggestions.

If you write your title after writing the post, you can copy and paste the part that you need from the body to the title. This would save a bit of work for you to write an informative title. But sometimes, writing the title first can show you a list of duplicates. If you need to type out a formula in the title, you would usually need it in the body anyway.

• I'm afraid I largely disagree. The name of the book is IMHO useful as a context only to those users who know of the book, and therefore get an approximate idea of what tools are available to the asker. For the purposes of duplicate avoidance it is surely enough to include the source in the question body. Also, the thought of not treating versions of the same exercise in different books as duplicates makes me shudder. May 15 '20 at 10:56
• First line of your answer :3 // Second line of your answer :\ huh (psst I think this is not for me) // Nevertheless, I agree with all that you say in your answer. Thank you T. S
– user486983
May 15 '20 at 15:28
• Do you have a criteria, when editing? Do you think news are priority or it doesn't matter, new or old? Or edit the ones that don't have an answer vs the ones that have vs the ones that have accepted answer? Or edits also based on tags, some have priority over others? i.e. more 'mess' in ones than on others
– user486983
May 15 '20 at 15:34
• @JyrkiLahtonen: Thank you for your comment. "*the thought of not treating versions of the same exercise in different books as duplicates makes me shudder. *" I'm afraid you are shuddering at something else then.:) For standard exercises such as "Calculate $\lim_{n\to\infty}(\sqrt{n^2+n}-n)$", I do consider (paragraph 5) there is no big difference whether it is in, say, Walter Rudin or James Stewart. Nevertheless, exercise like "Proving $\frac{d}{dx}e^x=e^x$" depends heavily on definitions and thus different books. In such a context, I do not consider they are the same.
– user9464
May 15 '20 at 16:05
• Yet, I do agree with you that putting the references in the body may suffice for a well-written post. But I don't consider adding it into the title harmful. As long as it does not make the title ridiculously long, it makes the post more searchable.
– user9464
May 15 '20 at 16:05
• Sure proving that derivative depends on how the exponential function is defined. I maintain that instead of giving title+author, the asker should then give their definition of the exponential function as a part of the context. This was a well thought out example from you though! Because a person needing to ask that question most often is blissfully unaware of there being different ways of defining $e^x$. Which brings me to another point that in such a case the answerers should help the asker to clarify before compiling their answers. May 15 '20 at 16:14
• And about using duplicates in that case. I still would close them as such. You see, the reality the content curators have to deal with (in main) is that irrespective of the definitions the asker has to deal with the answerers will similarly use theirs. With the result that in all those "not duplicate" threads we have more or less the same set of answers. This increases site entropy simply because the answerers are too eager. May 15 '20 at 16:18
• But I shouldn't waste this space reiterating the points I made here. May 15 '20 at 16:19
• Anyway, you obviously have thought about this, which is a big plus. The differences of opinion may, again, be traced back to the continental divide of whether we see the site as an organized collection of good material (Wiki 1st, as the founder of SE phrased it), or as a site for helping askers with as little effort as possible. May 15 '20 at 16:23
• @JyrkiLahtonen: "the asker should then give their definition of the exponential function as a part of the context." Sure. I would suggest that too. In such a case, besides leaving the reference in the body, it is a good practice to summarize briefly what definitions are involved since even those who are familiar with the book may not have it at hand. I find it difficult to reconcile the "the answerers should help the asker to clarify before compiling their answers" and "the site is that irrespective of the definitions the asker has to deal with the answerers will similarly use theirs."
– user9464
May 15 '20 at 16:35
• If the answerer is supposed to address the question under a specific context, then I expect that questions with different context should be taken as different questions. Otherwise, identifying question X with definition versions a, b, c, d as one question, how is one supposed to find out the corresponding version of answers? Or in what format should one give an answer to question X with, say, definition c?
– user9464
May 15 '20 at 16:35
• You have a valid concern about the site entropy. I think the purposes of collecting good materials and helping askers with as little effort as possible are not necessarily "orthogonal". But that would be quite another topic to discuss.
– user9464
May 15 '20 at 16:35
• @user486983 Thanks for your comments. While there are general principles for editing (such as not rolling back improvements), and I believe there has been some related discussion on meta, it may be hard to fully discuss it under comments. For tagging, I suggest the Tagging chat room. Also, there is a big E in the CURED chat room that is welcome for discussion of "Editing"; this is a function that the room has yet to fully exploit.
– user9464
May 15 '20 at 16:41
• @T.S Indeed. Well currently I don't have the option to roll back, but even if I had it, you can be 100% sure that I'll never roll back improvements. // You're right, I should check for meta posts related to this & the Tagging chat room. Sorry for asking you here.
– user486983
May 15 '20 at 16:59
• "I think the purposes of collecting good materials and helping askers with as little effort as possible are not necessarily "orthogonal"." :')
– user486983
May 15 '20 at 17:12

If you put the effort to properly write up a question, putting the extra bit of having a proper title should not be an issue.

Laziness is not an excuse.

Put the reference in the question's body, otherwise, stick to leaving the title informative for those who don't have the book at hand. If you plan on asking a question that only your teacher and classmates can immediately understand, just ask it in class or office hours.

Not to mention that this is helpful exactly in the case that every question would appear in a unique location through the literature. But do you know how many books have an exercise/theorem along the lines of "$$B$$ is a basis of $$V$$ if and only if it is a maximal linearly independent set"?

Putting "Book X, Theorem 1.2.3" in the title will not help you find previous questions, and it will not help others find your question in the future.

So until we change mathematical literature everywhere, let's stick with informative titles, yes?

• So you think those users write such titles because of laziness?
– user486983
May 13 '20 at 22:16
• No. I think that people sometimes don't think about titles. But you frame this as an option which is "easier and takes less effort". You think it's lazy, apparently.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
May 13 '20 at 22:17
• Excuse me? I've never thought about that, until now, that you're mentioning that. I've never thought that people would do it because of laziness, I thought they did it for having a better way of ordering
– user486983
May 13 '20 at 22:22
• "one just need to type for the book name, chapter, exercise, and done i.e. no need to type MathJax and check for the all the suggestions.", this describes laziness. Doing your due diligence means checking the suggestions. So excuse you, yes. Not to mention, that if a question appears in multiple books, how does it help you to search for the question title? If you put in "Why does $f(A\cap B)=f(A)\cap f(B)$?" in the title, and you get other related questions, possibly from other books, how is that a bad thing?
– Asaf Karagila Mod
May 13 '20 at 22:24
• Well you see it as laziness. I saw it as a faster way to find an exercise. Asaf, I've never said that would be a bad thing if encountering more related questions... But thanks to that line, now I think that is a bad idea to have a title type: Rudin, chapter 3, exercise 4.
– user486983
May 13 '20 at 22:33
• Asaf, I agree with the content of your post, but I believe OP was asking which title would make the post more searchable, not if he could be lazy about titling his questions. I think the fact that the s/he/... asked how to title questions shows that s/he/... is putting effort into his/her/... titles May 14 '20 at 11:22
• @CalvinKhor: Since searchability goes through post body, I have no idea why the title plays a role here. As well as the point about questions appearing in different books which makes this less searchable.
– Asaf Karagila Mod
May 14 '20 at 11:26
• Well it informs the human choice of deciding to click through when presented with the title, right? But anyways, again, I think you're right, I just thought that if you didn't think of the more charitable interpretation of OP's question, it would be worth telling you (sorry if you already knew) May 14 '20 at 11:29
• @CalvinKhor "not if he could be lazy about titling his questions. I think the fact that the s/he/... asked how to title questions shows that s/he/... is putting effort into his/her/... titles" exactly, honestly idk why Asaf bringed lazyness all over here. It's not nice. // Calvin, it's not that I'm putting effort into my titles, I haven't asked a question here in a while, and if I recall correctly I never choose a title like book.., chapter.., exercise.. My question was because in case that I'm going to edit, I can feel free to edit such titles.
– user486983
May 14 '20 at 12:08
• Time ago I saw a column of titles (in the Related question section), basically perfectly ordered, was like: book, title, chapter and below the same. And then I thought, so it's better this way? and not the explicit title as I usually edited? // side note, if you don't know my gender, I'll prefer 'they' as a pronoun
– user486983
May 14 '20 at 12:09
• "Since searchability goes through post body, I have no idea why the title plays a role here." interesting. I didn't know that. However by typing whatever only in the Title space and nothing in the Body space, displays lots of suggestions.
– user486983
May 16 '20 at 1:59