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I have a question I'd like to post on the main site. I imagine that someone there could give me an answer, but I'd like to find some scholarly literature on the subject in addition to getting thoughts from the forum. So I'd like to also get the names of one or two scholars, or the name of a book that addresses the topic. On another stackexchange site I got into trouble for asking for "outside resources" once, and I'm afraid that asking for scholar names would be the same kind of thing.

But I don't know how to get the information I'm looking for. So I'm asking for advice here, and I hope that doesn't get me into trouble here. I just don't know the right questions to ask and I don't know where to look.

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You came to the right spot for advice on how to use the main site.

Typically, questions whose sole purpose is "What are some resources on this topic?" are closed as off-topic.

However, it sounds like you have a real question in mind and after that is answered you want the names of a few scholars or books that discuss the topic further. That sounds just fine to me. I don't think that would be closed, assuming your question is on-topic.

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Now that we know your actual question, its easier to address it.

Asking for a list of resources is pretty much always off-topic, as it is a "list question", with the potential for an ever-growing list of "correct" answers.

However, asking if an area of research has ever been considered is a different type of question. There are only two possible answers (broadly speaking--there might actually be some form of in-between answer "Someone kind of addressed that in a paper on another topic...", but I digress).

If the goal of your question is to determine if any research has ever been done on Topic X, it can be on-topic (but not automatically a "good" question). But don't expect an answer to cover all possible research on the topic, or research from all angles.

Let me offer a silly example.

Q. Please provide a list of all research on the historicity of Jesus.

This is a bad question, because the list of possible correct answers is literally growing every year.

Q. Is there any research into the historicity of Jesus?

This is a better question. The answer is an unequivocal "Yes." And an answer providing a single reference to any research (from any angle) will be enough to prove this.

Does that make it a good question? That depends on your goal. If your goal is to determine if others have considered the question, yes, it's a good question.

If your goal is to "get to the bottom" of the issue, and determine for yourself if Jesus is historical, no, it's not a good question, because your single answer may reference literature which draws a conclusion which may not represent the full truth of the matter.

So in your example, what is your goal? To determine if others have had the same question? If so, then asking if there has been research on the topic is fine.

If your goal is rather, as I suspect, to get to the "truth" of the matter, it is sadly off-topic for our site, as we don't accept "truth questions." And it's not even answerable in a "What does the Bible say?" sense because the Bible doesn't directly address the issue.

  • Sorry I gave the impression that I'm looking for truth. I'm just wondering what people say about it; I figured it would be an obvious answer that someone could just lob at me with the names of one or two authors/scholars. – SaganRitual Nov 22 '14 at 16:32
  • Sadly we can't offer a list of answers. The best you might hope for (within the "topic" guidelines) would be a single answer of someone who has addressed the issue. And perhaps that can be a springboard for you to either find other authors with differing opinions on the same topic, or to ask more specific on-topic questions here. – Flimzy Nov 22 '14 at 16:34
  • Thanks, a springboard is exactly what I was hoping for. Sorry I didn't make that more clear in all of this. – SaganRitual Nov 22 '14 at 16:37
  • Oh, I'm re-reading your comments--I think you're saying that if some doctrinal school has something to say about it, it might be a more legit question. Is that right? I could edit it to reflect that better. If some doctrine addresses it, that would be awesome for me, because I could just research that doctrine. Should I edit the question along those lines? – SaganRitual Nov 22 '14 at 16:45
  • @GreatBigBore: Yes, that would be a good way to focus the question. "Does the [Catholic church] explain why Jesus talks more about the rich?" would be an adequately scoped question. It might be too narrow to get a good answer (I don't know), but it would certainly be scoped sufficiently to be "on topic" I believe. – Flimzy Nov 23 '14 at 1:54
  • Would it be ok to ask "Does any doctrinal school explain or address..."? – SaganRitual Nov 23 '14 at 2:05
  • @GreatBigBore: That would be much along the lines of my second example question above. You may get an affirmative answer, but it may not represent the only or "best" thoughts on the matter. But my opinion is that such a question would be "on topic." – Flimzy Nov 23 '14 at 2:06
  • Cool, thanks. I'll make that change. My main concern is keeping the question within the rules so it won't be deleted. At this point I would jump at almost any answer. I had no idea that this was such an obscure question; I figured I'd be inundated and even get a bit of flack about asking obvious questions. – SaganRitual Nov 23 '14 at 2:08

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