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Calvin Khor
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This Answer to How to avoid downvotes for beginner's questions? is relevant, as upvotes usually accompany Good Questions. Here I try to summarize that Answer as instructions with examples. (For their justification, see the linked answer.)

1 Use Mathjax where appropriate. Good: $$x=\tfrac{-b\pm \sqrt{b^2-4ac}}{2a}$$. Bad: x=-b+-sqrt(b^2-4ac)/2a, or
2 Give the source (enough information for others to find it) Good: "in Generatingfunctionology by H. Wilf, 2nd ed, page 234..." Bad: "I saw it in my combinatorics textbook" Also, if it smells like a contest question and has no source, I closevote and downvote.
3 Describe your level of math education, and other things that you suspect are relavant background material. e.g. "I took one year of undergraduate mathematics in the UK, but had to take a break", "we just proved Heine-Borel so perhaps we need to use it"
4 Try to solve the problem yourself first, and then summarize your efforts and what went wrong. If your question is about a calculation, consider typing out the whole calculation.
5 Ask about specific issues that are possible to answer authoritatively (in principle). Good: "Can one relax the assumption that the group is abelian?" Bad: "How can I solve it?"
6 Do not only use Mathjax in your title; also include a word with normal formatting Bad: $$b^2-4ac<0\implies \{x:P(x)=0\}=\emptyset?$$ Better: Does $$b^2-4ac<0$$ imply $$P$$ has no roots?
7 After writing your question but before submitting your question, look through the auto-generated list of related questions to avoid being a duplicate. If you found a related post but you can't understand it, don't just say "I saw this Q on this site before". See point 2: Give the link so that others can see what you have seen too.

While I'm at it, I would also add:

1. Use a descriptive title. If your title doesn't grab the attention of the right people, you won't get an answer.
2. After following the above advice, try to shorten your Question. Longer questions will be read by fewer people. This is more of an essay-writing skill. I would say, try to use less than one screen-height. At least, get to the point quickly. Details can come after the "punchline".

Other opinions:

1. there are a number of things that, if are not Bad Questions, leave a bad taste in my mouth. I don't know how to be specific here, but one example that comes to mind: Here's something I created (e.g. I generalised a definition) Is it useful?; if you don't know if it is useful, asking Has this been done before? is also bad.

2. There are certain topics that generate a bad kneejerk reaction here on Math.SE, due to e.g. a certain math video going viral (or even Getting Things Wrong). In my experience, these are usually questions on Logic, open problems, and divergent series. In these types of questions, you should distance yourself from the popsci and address the actual mathematical problem (in particular, be very rigourous).

And finally: following the above advice is no guarantee you will get an answer.

Calvin Khor
• 34.9k
• 1
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• 46