One of my biggest problems with the site is that my questions often get closed because they are flagged as duplicate. However, in most of these questions I am trying to not only get the right solution (which the link to the duplicate question helps), but also trying to identify what I am doing wrong (which the link to the duplicate question does not help).

Seeing the right concepts does not always help me identify which concepts I am getting wrong. Is that Ok if in my question I ask people to identify what I am doing wrong?

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    $\begingroup$ If the linked question cannot directly tell you where you are wrong, I think this should be allowed. $\endgroup$
    – user905694
    May 28, 2022 at 20:36
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    $\begingroup$ If you are going to do this, then you need to provide sufficient context that people will know what the issue is and why the potential duplicate doesn't help. You can edit a question closed as a duplicate to indicate why the duplicate does not answer your question and then post in the Requests for Reopen & Undelete thread. $\endgroup$ May 28, 2022 at 20:57
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    $\begingroup$ As a corollary to the comment from @Arturo, it's a good idea for you to be proactive and find the duplicates before other users find them. Look for duplicates before you post your question, and include links to them in the body of your question, along with an explanation of why you're convinced that they aren't really duplicates. $\endgroup$ May 28, 2022 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ One thing to do could be tagging your questions as (solution-verification) - have a look at the corresponding tag-info. Of course, that doesn't automatically mean your question won't be closed as a duplicate, as you can see from related discussions here on meta. $\endgroup$ May 28, 2022 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ Another thing you could try could be asking in chat - either in the main chatroom or in a chatroom related to the specific area you're interested in. $\endgroup$ May 28, 2022 at 23:33
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    $\begingroup$ After a point, if your doubts and issues are so localized that it becomes difficult for any dupe to address them, the best compromise I can offer is that you interact with people on the post, like you did with Bill on that thread. This happens with students oftentimes : their familiarity with their subject, or with general mathematical logic, is not good enough for them to immediately connect with dupes, which may have different notation , arguments, or a slightly higher level of abstraction. We've been here before with dupes, and I've often found users guiding OPs in the comments. $\endgroup$ May 29, 2022 at 5:28
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    $\begingroup$ Let me also say this, though : I applaud your effort in the creation of your post. If someone wanted to help you, I'd imagine they would spot the issue right away from what you've written. I would still request you to edit out the meta-commentary from your original post (keeping the linked (non)-duplicate links on, of course). $\endgroup$ May 29, 2022 at 5:37

2 Answers 2


Interesting that each of the responses so far, to the posting, have assumed that the OP (i.e. original poster) should take specific actions.

To me this ignores the real problem which is that there is no quality control constraints on MathSE reviewers labeling a question as a duplicate.

Here, I am confining attention to those questions that are not otherwise regarded as low quality. In my direct observation, MathSE reviewers tend to get frustrated by the fact that the vast majority of questions are of low quality. Consequently, all too often they will do one of the following:

  • Label the question as a duplicate, referring the OP to a previous MathSE question despite the fact that it is very plausible that the OP will not be able to understand the answers in the previous question.

  • Label the question as a duplicate, but refer the OP to the wrong previous question. That is, the referrer will not take the time to ensure that they are referring the OP to the correct previous question.

  • Label the question as a duplicate when the question is very similar to a previous question but where the question has a unique subtle nuance that renders the question not a duplicate.

    This has happened to me, and I have seen it happen to others. Often it is because the OP is long-winded. Personally, while I think that it would be nice if the OP had the artistic skill to be brief, I can't see penalizing them for lacking this skill.

    Sometimes it is because the MathSE reviewers are narrow minded. Also, from what I have observed, once the MathSE reviewers emotionally dig their heels in, declaring the question as a duplicate, it is game over. They simply will not change their minds.

Unfortunately, all that I can offer is criticism (which is easy) and no concrete remedy to consider. For example, preventing MathSE reviewers from answering low quality questions is itself very problematic. Therefore, how can one expect MathSE reviewers to accept quality control standards with respect to labeling a question as a duplicate?

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    $\begingroup$ Reviewers make mistakes, as we all do. But there is a recourse. OP can make the case as to why the cited duplicate is not a duplicate, OP can post a new question asking for clarification of a hard-to-understand answer posted to an old question, and so on. OP has to care enough about getting a useful answer to put in the hard work of justifying the question. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2022 at 23:23
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    $\begingroup$ In my tags it is far more common for a proper dupe closure to be wrongly reopened (due to robotic / inexperienced reviewers voting in the general review queue) than it is for a gold-badge closer to refuse to reverse a well-argued reopen appeal. This is very frustrating since finding good dupes takes orders of magnitude more effort than does the typical few seconds spent on robotic FGITW reviews from the queue. $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2022 at 8:58
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    $\begingroup$ You have mention being long-winded as a reason for a question to be deemed bad. I was under the impression that I should be as specific as possible with my questions. I often feel very disencourage to post questions because of the reaction I will get. This happens all over stackexchange, not only here. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2022 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @user3347814 In my opinion, the only rational course is to generally be very long-winded. This is typically what the Math problems require, especially the presentation of a problem. There is typically much room for confusion/ambiguity. Also, the original poster is supposed to structure his posting in accordance with the protocol in this article. ...see next comment $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2022 at 1:42
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    $\begingroup$ @user3347814 However, an unfortunate byproduct of this is you increase the probability of having MathSE reviewers meet your presentation with negligence. There is no escaping this and there isn't any rational defence except: in the article that I linked to, I suggest pro-actively trying to find articles that are close to yours. If these other articles answer your question then there is no reason for you to post. If they don't, then you can include a link to these other postings and very carefully explain why they do not answer the question that you wish to ask. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2022 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ @user3347814 Being long-winded is never a problem, particularly for an elementary question. The only reason I was able to point out your mistake was because you purposely showed all your steps. One option, if you wish to primarily have your solution evaluated, is to use the solution-verification tag. You still need to be careful, mind, but you are allowed to say : "I want to verify my proof of ..." and write your proof. Then, carefully highlight the parts of your proof that you think everyone else should look at (this is where you need to be specific). These are great questions. $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2022 at 4:11

I believe these questions are useful, but you need to be careful, because they are easily mistaken for duplicates of existing questions. I would suggest this format for your future questions (and, perhaps, for your already-closed questions, for they may be reopened if you can improve them):

  1. Lead with the underlying mathematical problem.
  2. Explain how you tried to solve it.
  3. Explain why you believed that your solution would work.
  4. If you know of another, similar question (preferably, one which is not itself closed as a duplicate of something else), then link to it, and explain what you learned from it and what you're still confused about. Do not just say "I still don't understand" or words to that effect - be as specific as possible! For example, in an algebra question, you might ask "How did they know to divide through by $b$ here?"
  5. Do not include anything that is not math in your question. In particular, do not include complaints that your other questions got closed or that people are failing to read your question - that definitely falls under the banner of "not math."
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    $\begingroup$ "Easily mistaken" not always, I know that most experienced users take reviewing very seriously, particularly duplicate marking. That apart, everything you've said definitely gives the user the best chance of demonstrating the importance of their question : whether one thinks about that from a "repository" or a "help forum" or whatever point of view, it cannot be unhelpful for sure (note that duplicates aren't necessarily unhelpful : they can be very helpful if edited and worded well.) $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2022 at 11:01
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    $\begingroup$ I have been studying for a test this past week, and every single useful answer that I found came from a duplicate not the original question. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2022 at 18:22

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