Currently, there are two radio buttons in the "Why should this question be closed?" dialog which are very similar, and which fail to clearly address a category of question which should be closed. The buttons in question are those labeled:

Needs details or clarity

This question should include more details and clarify the problem.


Missing context or other details

Please provide additional context, which ideally explains why the question is relevant to you and our community. Some forms of context include: background and motivation, relevant definitions, source, possible strategies, your current progress, why the question is interesting or important, etc.

The first is on the first page of the dialog, while the second is reached by first selecting the "A community specific reason" from the main dialog.

The close reason on the main dialog actually highlights two very common, but orthogonal, problems: the first is "PSQ" (problem statement question) style questions, which need more detail; the second is questions which consist of (for lack of a better word) logorrhea—the user writes their life story into the question. The community-specific reason highlighted above addresses the first, but we don't currently have a canned statement regarding the second. I would like to propose that we need a new community-specific close reason which specifically addresses clarity, particularly in cases where there is too much detail.

I will put some version of the language into a community wiki answer below, in case others want to massage the language without stepping on toes.

Some relevant meta posts:

  1. Reconsidering custom close reasons on Math.SE

  2. New changes to close reasons

  3. A feature requested for the purpose of avoiding unintentional newbie-biting

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I think it is also worth mentioning that for closing PSQ's, the best reason for closure is the custom close reason: "Missing context and other details", rather than, "needs details or clarity." What is lacking, is a reason strictly focused on lacking clarity. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ I want to link to this post by (at the time) a community manager. Not exactly the same, but pointing out that (at least elsewhere in the network) "Needs clarity" can be used the same way as "Missing Context". $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Yeah, in the period last year when we didn't have a "needs context" close reason, I used "needs clarity" instead. I think this further reinforces my point that "needs clarity" encourages writers to add to their posts, rather than try to edit them down. I should have linked to that thread above. Thanks for pointing it out. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 13:03
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Mind you, if the current interface allows more than one write-in close reason, then I move that we add "An attempt to outsource homework" (with better wording and a more detailed description). That would cover the probably most common use of this close reason, and also make the message clear. We should still keep "Missing context" for other cases where it applies. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 13:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Unfortunately, I think that we have lost the battle against homework. I would love to see Math SE adopt a hard line against homework problems (as Physics SE seems to have done). However, it seems that the horse is already out of the barn, across the meadow, and on a plane to Argentina on that one. There are enough people on Math SE who see no problem with this site becoming a homework mill (or don't see that it is moving in that direction?) that an anti-homework policy is likely to fail. That said, I'm willing to go another round if you are. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 13:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Xander We still close copy/pasted homework questions. My intention was to have separate close reason to cover those. The message might then be clearer. But such a message needs to be accompanied with a link to a local source explaining what kind of questions around a homework assignment are acceptable. Sorry about writing it too tersely. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2020 at 19:31
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @XanderHenderson: I'm new to the close queue, but I can tell you that if there was a "we won't do your homework for you" close reason (better stated and friendlier, of course), I would close more PSQ homework questions. And in fact there is another meta current question from another user fresh to the close queue who says that they would find such a thing useful too. If "go another round" means creating a close reason specific to low-effort homework questions I'd love to see that on meta. Though maybe I need to look for previous attempts. Are you aware of any? $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Jun 7, 2020 at 2:35
  • $\begingroup$ To me draw a lot the attention your efforts and claims about this issue, for example in your previous comment (I mean the comment starting "Unfortunately, I think that..."). With all respect, currently there is a special situation on the world, from which it seems reasonable to me that can be have some impact increasing the quantity of PSQ homeworks asked on Mathematics Stack Exchange. I prefer do focus in the way to cast votes of some users (in case that my beliefs that I evoke in my thougths can be reasonable) and the impact for a generic New Contributor. $\endgroup$
    – user759001
    Commented Jun 8, 2020 at 10:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It would be worth getting a high-quality answer to this meta question giving advice on fixing unclear questions and linking to it in the close reason if we want to add a new close reason so that users have a robust source of guidance to improve their questions - this answer comes close enough that I'm hesitant to write a new one, though it mostly targets "avoid 'context' about your life" and "simplify as far as you can" and misses some other related issues. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 9, 2020 at 18:15

1 Answer 1


Needs clarity

This question is not clear. Please edit the question to bring attention to a specific mathematical question and clearly highlight that question in your writing. You might consider paring your question down to one or two sentences which you write at the top of your post, and putting supporting details below. You should also eliminate unnecessary details, such as long computations which could be simplified or omitted, or irrelevant background.


You must log in to answer this question.

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