I see a lot of questions on this site, that are not properly framed. We get several every day that ask for a basic understanding of a doctrine or view point without a narrowing convention.

This makes me thing of a basic Stack Overflow question asking principal: "Show us your code, and tell us where you're stuck." This is best summarized in the comment "What have you tried?"

The essential message is "we don't write code for you" and the reading behind that is that we're not here to give you all the answers, we want to help you solve your specific problem and help you learn something along the way.

Is there a similar minimum standard we should hold questioners to on this site? What should our minimum research effort be? We've talked a lot about what makes a good question, and what makes a good answer, but ultimately, where is the line in the sand for "this question shows a fundamental lack of research effort?"

  • 2
    This could also serve as a question in which to develop a standardish response for asking for more information on a poorly researched or scoped question if folks want to do that instead.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 2:48
  • 3
    My two cents: According to Whom Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 5:34

3 Answers 3


Over at sci-fi we had a similar issue in the early days. I saw lots of people asking questions that could easily be answered on Wikipedia or on other wikis dedicated to the topic in the question. I found this annoying because often the answers were just copy / pastes of the original article and I was thinking - what are we adding here?

So I asked How should we handle questions that are easily answered by Wikipedia?

Borror0 posted a brilliant answer which included this flowchart:

Borror0's "should we answer this" flowchart

Jeff Attwood liked it so much he wrote a blog article about it: Are Some Questions Too Simple?

So I suggest we use this here. The "what have you tried?" test becomes this flowchart. Users will be expected to do some basic research. If not, we can close the question as "general reference".

  • +1 for the google test. If you can google a user's question, and if a good sample of relevant answers can be spotted on the first page, it is clear enough research has not been done. I wonder though, is it okay to ask a known question simply for having a refreshing perspective, as the key with many scriptures or doctrines, is refreshing our perspective and seeing how the teachings are still applicable today.
    – user1946
    Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 18:46
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    @treehau5: I think that fits into the "interesting" category above which is what makes this graph so brilliant. Commented Aug 2, 2013 at 18:56

I think that line is hard to draw.

Certainly, I think many of us are inclined to say that if it is easily googleable then it is not a real question. More specifically, if the answer is clearly in Wikipedia then it is not a real question. (When I say real question I mean that they actually tried to find the answer first instead of just popped in to ask us something that just popped in their head).

However, sometimes Wikipedia or some other first page google search might be comprehensive, but it is a very complicated topic. Basically, I am saying that there is a correlation between how specific the question is and how much the asker already knows about the subject.

So we should judge on a case-by-case basis. If it is a general question without a doctrinal perspective given then I think it is clear that the asker did not research the topic already and likely does not know the protocols here yet. It is this case we should VTC. If it is a specific question like this one (which lead to more questions like it) then we should leave it open because it is clear that the asker did some research and it trying to understand what he already knows about it.


One of the purposes of SE would be to get the information out there. Some of the best questions I've seen were Q&A'ed by the same person. Suppose there were an hour gap between typing the Q and the A: would we beat on them for not showing their work? Indeed, it seems that some of the best wordings for questions would be the most Google-able, only here we have expert answers rated by expert answers. Unlike the software communities, C.SE. isn't as much ruined by a "good homework question."

The question here seems to be looking for another tool with which to peck at bad people.

  • That's not it at all. What I'm struggling with is how to explain to people that their question is too broad/unanswerable/improperly scoped in a way that's friendly and communicates the problem well.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 30, 2013 at 12:27

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