I frequently see these questions in the close queue flagged as opinion-based. I have mixed feelings about such threads: overall, I think they can be useful if people explain their answers (several threads on here about this point, such as this one), which is not required, unfortunately. But a big problem is that they depend much more than other questions on the OP, which makes them less applicable to a general audience.

On the other hand, I don't feel super comfortable immediately closing them as 'opinion-based.' I don't disagree that a book recommendation is inherently subjective but it seems like part of the nature of the question, not as a fatal flaw. I think closing a question like this as opinion-based is appropriate, as there are too many factors and it's clear 'natural' depends on perspective. Maybe I'm wrong.

I guess I'm asking:

  1. What do you all see as the role of such questions?
  2. Is it ok to close them as opinion-based?
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ One thing to consider is that for most reference requests, there are currently plenty of other, answered duplicate questions speaking to the same request. So one option for a good number of reference requests, is closing them as duplicates of other reference requests. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Aug 29, 2020 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy an earlier version of this post mentioned this but I deleted it. Glad to see you mention it. $\endgroup$
    – Integrand
    Aug 29, 2020 at 0:59
  • $\begingroup$ What specifically do you mean by "such questions"? $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Aug 29, 2020 at 1:10
  • $\begingroup$ Questions tagged as 'reference-request' or 'book-recommendation' $\endgroup$
    – Integrand
    Aug 29, 2020 at 1:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that's a productive question in this generality. In particular reference request is much broader. "Where can I find a proof of {this result}?" is not really opinion based at all. (Obviously there should be some more context but just to get the idea across.) What makes a good book rec. question was also discussed already. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Aug 29, 2020 at 1:52
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ I don't think the problem is intrinsic to reference requests or book recommendation questions, but rather the issue of opinions usually comes up because of the parameters and adjectives contained within such questions. Asking "what's the best book for xyz" without explaining what best means in terms which aren't opinion-based seems to be the main issue. (I would also add the second linked post here is a huge mess independent of a reference-request tag.) $\endgroup$
    – KReiser
    Aug 29, 2020 at 2:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I would just say "Answer, if you can and feel like it, ignore otherwise." This is not the most obvious junk that floats on MSE, so there is no need to have a special crusade against it. By the way, it is totally OK to have conflicting recommendations and opinions about books or anything else in the same thread as long as they do not degenerate into a personal war. Just my 2 cents :-) $\endgroup$
    – fedja
    Aug 29, 2020 at 16:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Many Questions tagged in those ways contain sufficient context/details to allow for an objective or good-subjective Answer. Hence it is overreach to say these should all be closed or should never be answered. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Aug 29, 2020 at 21:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree with @KReiser that the problem isn't with the appropriate use of the tag: reference request, but rather with any request in any tag asking for "what is the easiest way to prove...," Or "What is the most elegant proof of..." or "What is the best course of study," Or "What is the best text on ...", or "What is the best college to apply to..." etc., etc., $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Aug 29, 2020 at 23:00


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