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This is irritating and tedious, just put something about homework in the FAQ if it's necessary. If you don't want to just 'give people the answer' then treat all questions as if they are homework.

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    $\begingroup$ No. I will continue to ask it everytime I see a question which looks like a homework. $\endgroup$ – user2468 May 24 '12 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ Related thread on meta.SO: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/130558/… $\endgroup$ – Jonas Meyer May 24 '12 at 4:09
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    $\begingroup$ It seems that I've restarted an old discussion by bumping the question. I added (homework) tag - I thought it could be useful for people searching using the tags. If it causes any inconvenience, I apologize. (But perhaps it's not that bad that this question reappeared at the front page.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak May 24 '12 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ J.D. What kind of questions do you think look like homework? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 6 '12 at 2:30
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    $\begingroup$ I totally agree with you. Every one of those that ask that question is playing the role of a stupid. The question is going to be answered anyway. The OP can simply say that it is not a homework. No matter what the problem is, the OP can always say "I am a 4 years old genius learning mathematics on my own". It is simply stupid asking that. It delays the process in those questions that look like homework, but in fact are not, wasting everyone's time (if someone pays any attention at all at the question). $\endgroup$ – OR. Dec 6 '13 at 19:02
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We asked before answering a homework question and a non-homework questions because the information content we provide will depend on it. If we answer a non-HW question like a HW question, the asker won't get enough information; if we answer a HW question like a non-HW question, the asker may just copy the result without learning anything.

It is a standard practice carried from SO.

  • How to ask and answer homework questions?

    Don't edit a question to add the [homework] tag. If there's any room for doubt at all, it's best to leave it as is. Instead, add a comment first requesting that the asker clarify the situation.

  • Is this Homework or this is homework or this sounds like homework

    The short version is that commenting to ask a user if a suspicious question is homework is encouraged, but not because we don't answer those questions or look down on them. Rather, it's that students looking to learn more about a concept often have different wants and expectations for their answers than professionals looking to solve an immediate problem. So this helps us give you better answers.

and widely accepted (as in upvoted) in math.SE too.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Frankly, what is irritating is that people can't be bothered to read the prior discussions... $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 6:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Moron, who is it that can't be bothered to read prior discussions? $\endgroup$ – anon Oct 12 '10 at 19:45
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    $\begingroup$ @muad: People who can't be bothered :-) Let's not get too serious now... $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ @KennyTM "If we answer a non-HW question like a HW question, the asker won't get enough information" I don't understand this. Could you elaborate on this? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 6 '12 at 2:33
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Can we please stop asking “Is this homework?”

Only if we please stop providing full solutions to homework-like questions.

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    $\begingroup$ I now await a slew of down votes from those who think MSE is about delivery of solutions on demand. And to be fair, perhaps that's what the majority of the community wants... $\endgroup$ – user16299 May 23 '12 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ I think that a year and a half ago the site was very different. I don't think there is a problem with the repeated question "is this homework?". $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila May 23 '12 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ It may be that those who think m.se is about delivery of solutions on demand are not well-represented on meta. $\endgroup$ – Gerry Myerson May 24 '12 at 1:58
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    $\begingroup$ I think that, for many people, the problem wasn't asking if a question is homework, but asking "Is this homework?" as opposed to "This seems like it might be a homework question. If you are asking for help with your homework, please add the tag "homework" to your question." or some such. $\endgroup$ – Isaac May 24 '12 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ @GEdgar Please define homework-like questons. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 6 '12 at 2:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Makoto: A question that reads like "I've been working on this topic in math for a while and reading this famous proof of an important result, but I don't understand one line of the proof..." is clearly NOT homework. A question that seems like it was just dropped into Math.SE from a book, like, "Find all zeroes of this function: $f(x)=x^2-3x+5$." With no explanatory text from the poster looks very much like a homework problem that the poster wants Math.SE to answer for them. I'd be surprised if you haven't seen a lot of these yourself while browsing the site. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Dec 17 '12 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Makoto: Looks like homework (arbitrary restriction, low rep), even though people don't seem to care: math.stackexchange.com/questions/260831/… Might be related to homework but at least is not asking for Math.SE to solve the homework problem: math.stackexchange.com/questions/260889/… Clearly not homework: math.stackexchange.com/questions/260848/… $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Dec 17 '12 at 18:38
  • $\begingroup$ OK, I'll ask the question ... $\endgroup$ – GEdgar Dec 17 '12 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox By your standard, it seems to me that most of the questions of this site looks like homework. For example, how about this question? math.stackexchange.com/questions/225528/… $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 17 '12 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ At what point in graduate school do we stop calling it "homework" and start calling it "research"? No matter where that point is, your example question seems to be beyond it. If you'd rather not ask whether a question is homework, I don't personally think you should. At the same time, I think people who do want to ask if a question is homework should be allowed to unmolested. If you don't have a way that you like of telling whether a question looks like homework or not, then don't worry about it! Just dicovered this is two years old! Oops. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Dec 17 '12 at 21:15
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox I think that some people just don't like giving away an answer to a question which seems like a homework(to them), not because they think it's not pedagogically good, but because they feel they are being used. Personally I think it's petty. A complete answer to a question can be a valuable asset of this site regardless whether the question is homework or not. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 17 '12 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ @MakotoKato: Of course. I see the conflict as coming from the tension between what is best for the site as a mathematical resource and what is best for those asking homework questions. I'm sure everyone would agree that having correct, rigorous answers to the questions on the site is good, and that helping the next generations of mathematicians understand better is also good. What to do when those two goals conflict? Personally, I like the idea of letting each Math.SE member decide how far they want to go in verifying if a question is homework or not. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Dec 18 '12 at 15:50
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox "Personally, I like the idea of letting each Math.SE member decide how far they want to go in verifying if a question is homework or not." I prefer them who don't care about homework questions. A good question can be homework. Some(or many) people tend to give incomplete answers to it if they find(or think) it is homework. Hence there might be many incomplete answers to good questions in this site. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 18 '12 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ I've seen the best of both worlds happen (although rarely) where hints are provided in comments and/or answers until the OP gets it, and either provides and accepts their own answers or someone swoops in and provides a complete answer that is accepted. I think that would be ideal, but I also agree that it's asking a lot for that to happen even half the time. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Dec 19 '12 at 17:24
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I think that at least part of the problem is that "Is this homework?," as a bare question, is too easily read as being accusatory or having some connotation that homework questions are unwelcome.

I think the response to asking whether or not a question is homework would be more positive if the comment were something like:

This seems like it might be a homework question. If you are asking for help with your homework, please add the tag "homework" to your question.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this answer could be an standard one, instead of: "Is this homework?". You're right that the later sounds accusatory. $\endgroup$ – d.t. Oct 16 '10 at 18:40
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I see no reason to get annoyed/irritated, even if it is your question which gets such a comment.

Most people who want to get their homework done for free would not even bother to read the FAQ, so I don't think putting something there will result in lesser amount of comments asking if it is homework. Besides, I believe the FAQ already mentions people put the homework tag if they indeed need help with their homework...

btw, did you try reading the multiple discussions about treating questions which might be homework? See this for instance: What is the proper way to handle homework questions?

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    $\begingroup$ Your link is not quite representative, and in any case, the OP's point is that the is-it-homework interrogations have an unwholesome ecological effect. I will repeat here the suggestion that instead of speculatively or interrogatively identifying might-be homework we should identify relevant objective features of homework and non-homework postings such as being [unsourced] or [numerically-specific] or [constrained-proof] ("using the Mean Value Theorem, show that ...") and add these as tags. This has relevance beyond the interest of some users in suppressing homework answers. $\endgroup$ – T.. Oct 12 '10 at 5:04
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: The right tag is [homework]. [unsourced] etc type meta tags, do nothing to indicate the kind of question one can expect. The reason to ask if it is homework is to be able to tag it as [homework] in the first place! It is rude to just go ahead and tag a question without clarifying with the OP first (and so comments of that nature). About the link, it is one of many. What do you think is the representative one? $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 5:19
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    $\begingroup$ [homework] (a meta-tag if ever there was one!) does not tell me more about a posting, either alone or in conjunction with other math-subject tags, than, e.g., the information that the posting is a [numerical-request] or other such descriptor. $\endgroup$ – T.. Oct 12 '10 at 6:09
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: I knew that was coming. The discussion about [homework] tag being a meta tag has been flogged to death on meta.stackoverflow.com. I can't be bothered to go search for it. Perhaps you can find it in one of the links in Kenny's answers. One use of tags is to help answerers find questions they can answer. homework tag works very well in that respect. [unsourced] doesn't. In any case, this is not relevant to the issue of the "irritating/tedious" comments being left by people. After reading this question, I see the need for "Noise or Pointless" close reason which meta.stackoverflow has. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 6:17
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    $\begingroup$ [homework] by itself could be anything from grade school to graduate school. I really don't see how this knowledge helps as compared to objective equivalents (e.g., [textbook-problem]). Indicators of difficulty level would be much more relevant. By the way, I don't mean to imply that [homework] is bad because it's a meta tag, just that those who do oppose meta tags seem to make an artificial and ill-justified special exception for [homework]. $\endgroup$ – T.. Oct 12 '10 at 6:30
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: More often than not you know that you can expect to solve a problem tagged homework. If not, well you might learn something in attempting to solve it, and the guiding answers might well point you in the right direction without spoiling it completely for you! [textbook-problem] is worse than [homework], in predicting what one can expect. FWIW, I am not opposed to tags like [numerical-request]. I am opposed to [unsourced]. It is pointless, IMO. Anyway, this conversation is irrelevant to the question at hand. I do suggest that you read up the discussion on meta.stackoverflow, though. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ Why isn't [solvable] (or its opposite, [solvability-unspecified]) the more correct, objective and general category to capture the idea you have in mind? If somebody posts a textbook exercise you know it has a solution, barring errors in the problem, whether or not the textbook is a source of homework problems for a class. This would arise, for example, with questioners studying books on their own and not taking any class. $\endgroup$ – T.. Oct 12 '10 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the relevance to the present discussion is that instead of establishing whether something is homework per se, it would be more productive to inquire for sources, existence of a solution, and other attributes of the question rather than of the questioner's personal relationship to the question (e.g., it was assigned as homework, or for a job, or as PhD thesis research lemma, or whatever). $\endgroup$ – T.. Oct 12 '10 at 7:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Muad: I guess T.. is a mind-reader to have deduced what you wanted to say based on what you wrote! Clarifying that it is homework will help tailor the answers. Tagging without letting OP know is rude and might not help in that regard. If you don't care about handing out answers to homework on a platter, while others are patiently trying to guide the asker, well, that would be irritating. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 13:58
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: If it is tagged [solvable], it might not help me to try and help the person, rather than flat out answer the question. The point of clarifying whether it is homework (and tagging it as such) is to help the asker learn, rather than give the answer which might not help the asker learn... $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 14:04
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: No one is deciding for the questioners (or for other answerers). How does asking "Is it homework" do any suppression? You are free to flat out answer the question. The only suppression I see is the current question, which explicitly asks people to stop asking if a question could be homework. The reason I might ask if it is homework is to tailor my answer, and not to influence others. You comment about pettiness/paranioa is too ridiculous. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: The only negative ecological effect I see is people not following the guidelines of the site which were voted on (and I suppose implicity agreed upon) by the community. Not following the guidelines is ok (one can live with that), but the more irritating aspect is actually complaining when others do follow them (like the current question). If you have a problem with the guidelines feel free to raise a question. Asking people to stop following them is suppression. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: Where in the world did you come up with the theory that there is campaigning going to prevent people from posting complete solutions? Asking if it is homework is a right, just like it is a right to flat out answer the homework. Like I said earlier, asking if it is homework is to tailor one's own answer and not to influence others. btw, homework questions are not discouraged. Not sure what gave you that idea. Difficulty ratings are subjective and tags with those are pointless. I think you are being paranoid when you talk about "citizens patrols". $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 18:48
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: I haven't seen that happen. I am curious. Do you remember any questions which had this? $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 12 '10 at 20:19
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    $\begingroup$ @T..: I disagree that there is any negativity with the word homework itself. If someone is immature enough to be hurt enough to not come back to this site when asked if some question is homework, I don't think it would be a great loss. I disagree that there is no value in meta comments which ask for the background etc. Anyway, I really don't wish to continue this discussion further, please don't expect any more responses from me. btw, I do understand your view point of being a welcoming site etc, perhaps you can bring a change in the guidelines in how we deal with potential homework problems. $\endgroup$ – Aryabhata Oct 13 '10 at 3:14
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Personally I never ask the OP, whether the question is a homework, if I see from his rep that he has posted a few questions or answers before. It's very probable that he has been told already.

If I see that user is posting his first question, quite often I post some kind of "welcome comment", where I also link to How to ask a homework question. More-or-less along the lines of this proposal CFV: Proposal for standardized meta-comments, to avoid main-site meta discussions.

But in general, if question is not tagged homework, I treat is as non-homework question and in such case I don't see any problem with posting full solution. (And sometimes I give hints even for non-homework questions.)

The most important point I'd like to make: It's not my job to police the posters. The poster should have some honesty himself (and the students are lead to be honest about their work at their school). Of course it's good to make sure that user is aware of our homework policy (if we have one - from A Consolidated Homework Policy you can see, that it's almost impossible to find something policy with which all users would agree), but let's try not to overdo this.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree mostly with you. I'd like to point out a problem of the homework policy. A homework question can be interesting and important. I don't see why providing a good full proof to a good question should be frowned upon just because it's homework. Please notice that the OP can always ignore a full proof if he thinks it's not good for himself. Please also notice that there are usually several (good) answers to a question. I think it's deplorable that potentially good answers would be suppressed just because it's homework. $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Aug 7 '12 at 1:37
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NO!

In my answering experience, I have tackled tons of forums that have no good moderation and the entire community consists of online-homeschoolers who copy/paste their test questions. This is utterly the result of community ignorance and wrong moderation despite a code of conduct stricter than SE. Math.StackExchange is the most perfect website for Mathematics that I have seen in my life. Personally, I would never stop asking people if their question is for homework.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE STOP (in the correct order):

  1. Students would perceive that test questions are too mainstream and there is no reason for them not to ask.

  2. They would, in turn, ask their test questions.

  3. Repeat 1.

The forum would eventually be filled with Rage Comics, Advice Animals and other memes.

Would you want such a community?

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    $\begingroup$ The repeat clause in (3) implies an infinite loop that will never reach clause (4). :-) $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Dec 17 '12 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I added a "break" line :) $\endgroup$ – Parth Kohli Dec 17 '12 at 9:54
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it would ever result in rage comics, but I do think the more we automatically answer homework questions, the more we encourage the asking of homework questions. $\endgroup$ – Todd Wilcox Dec 17 '12 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox: I may DM you the name of one site which now is on its way to be closed. $\endgroup$ – Parth Kohli Dec 19 '12 at 8:59

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