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Previously on Meta the issue of scoping with tags has been addressed. Here, I am wondering if scoping must be done in the title, or if scoping can be legitimately done in the body as well.

I have seen many examples of people scoping questions on this site, both in the question title and in the question body. Some examples:

  • What does Roman Catholicism believe about... [as opposed to other traditions]
  • What is an overview of... [as opposed to biblical basis, etc.]
  • What do scholars/theologians/experts say about... [as opposed to non-scholars, etc.]

I intend to ask about the validity of these and other types of scoping in another question; that's not my focus here. Rather: does scoping have to be done in the question title in order to take effect?

That is, are the following two things equivalent from the perspective of scope (note the three bolded scoping clauses)?

  1. Title: "What does passage X mean?" Body: "What is an overview of Protestant interpretations of word Y in passage X?"
  2. Title: "What is an overview of Protestant interpretations of word Y in passage X?"

Put another way, if I answer with a biblical basis or Roman Catholicism answer, should it be considered more acceptable (i.e., less likely to be deleted as Not An Anwer) in the first case than in the second?

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Scoping can be done in any part of a question. When considering what the scope of a question is all parts should be taken into account: the site it is on, the title, the body and the tags.1 If the body spells out a direction for inquiry and limits to the result set that surely counts as valid scoping. That being said there are good reasons to encourage scoping in more than one place.

  • People suck at reading. The vast majority of folks will read a title and start forming their answer in their head before they even read the question and no amount of detail in the question will dissuade them from their first impressions. Including a general scope in the title helps point the ship in the right direction from launch and the question body can have a chance to fine tune that.

  • Titles attract the interest of people with specific expertise. The goal isn't to write click bait titles that don't actual represent the question well. The goal should be to catch the eye of people with the specific interests to answer questions. Likewise when questions have been answered the titles help serve to clue in future searchers about whether a question is or isn't what they are looking for.

  • Titles keep away unwanted interest. This is roughly the complement of the last two points but I think it's worth mentioning separately. We have a consistent problem with people answering questions from perspectives that are excluded by the scope of the question. This can be greatly reduced by not attracting people to questions that they don't have the expertise or interest in. Either tagging as or mentioning an encyclical is enough to scope a question, but including the word "Catholic" in the title is much more effective at keeping people not interested in Catholic views from forming non-Catholic answers on seeing the title and then opening and posting them with no further regard to the question details.

In other words the body is technically enough, but a well written question will include scoping clues in all the fields. This is something that can almost always be improved with a little editing.

1 Comments should also be factored in when trying to understand the OP's intent, but should be considered ephemeral and anything they add to the question as a whole should be edited into the question.

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Scoping in question bodies should be considered legitimate, but as much as possible scoping should be included in the title.

Scoping should generally be included in the question title. However, there is also value in brief, punchy question titles. Thus, in some cases, it may be best for some scoping to be done only in the question body.

In such (limited) circumstances, the scope provided in the question body should be binding. Answers that do not reflect the scope should be treated as if the scope was mentioned in the question title.

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    I agree with the main point here, but am refraining from upvoting because I disagree that there is any value in "brief punchy" titles. These tend to act as a magnet only for the wrong type of activity and don't seem to add value for future searchers looking for answers or attract the expertise needed to answer the questions. Furthermore such titles tend to promote miss-understanding about what kinds of questions work well on the site. – Caleb Sep 15 '15 at 9:39
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    @Caleb I think this, as written, can be understood to mean that there is value in questions titles that are "relatively brief, punchy" in comparison to the question body. Complex questions will naturally have longer titles, but I don't think they should be required to be as long as necessary to include all desired scoping. – Nathaniel is protesting Sep 15 '15 at 12:08

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