By my back of the envelope estimation, there must be close to a million students studying psychology or cognitive science at any given moment (i.e., 1000 universities each with 1000 students).

So far, I have not seen a single question inspired by a university student struggling to understand course content.

  • How can we promote the site to this potential user group?
  • Or alternatively, do we want to promote the site to this user group?

While I'm entirely supportive of university students asking for help here, I don't know that we need to advertise it as such. Personally, I feel this site is much more valuable as a research-level tool, not a homework-level tool. Do you really want a flood of students asking questions that have already been answered in dozens of textbooks? I fear that's what we'll get if, e.g., we plaster campuses with flyers and such. If we let the site develop more organically, I think it betters our chances of getting a good mix of questions from all levels of expertise, through word of mouth.

Do you happen to know how other sites have dealt with this problem (e.g. physics.SE and math.SE?)

  • Good points.On stats.SE and probably other sites, there is a "homework" tag. The response of the community is generally tied to the nature of the question. Pure "copy and paste jobs" from some homework, are generally not tolerated, but questions like "I'm studying X, and I've looked at Y, but I don't understand Z" are welcome. However, I guess how to deal with such questions can evolve when they arrive.
    – Jeromy Anglim Mod
    Feb 6 '12 at 23:52
  • Note that math.SE and physics.SE have lost (or never had?) research focus. Both now follow the controversial two-level model (which I support) with MO and TP.SE providing a home for the research communities. Feb 7 '12 at 1:46

I agree with @Jeff except I have a harder stance on it. As I've mentioned before I think that questions that are answered in standard undergraduate texts should be off-topic or discouraged here. I don't think we should introduce a homework tag... at least not until after we build a strong research community. Since advertising to typical undergraduates is likely to generate homework-level questions, then we should avoid it.

The (much smaller) university demographic that we should target it graduate students and professors. Professors are often a hard demographic to encourage, but graduate students shouldn't be as difficult.

If we want to reach these groups, then one of the things we should consider is advertising at CogSci2012. IIRC cstheory.SE won over academics by advertising at theory conferences. I would offer my services, but I am not that familiar with the cogsci community, and I am not sending papers this year (Japan is a bit far to travel for me).

  • I agree with your point about the importance of targeting graduate students and academics. I've posted a specific meta question, where we can perhaps brainstorm conference sponsorship and related strategies: meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/139
    – Jeromy Anglim Mod
    Feb 7 '12 at 2:10
  • I also appreciate your concern about maintaining a rigorous high quality site and the idea of not needing to target undergraduates, although my preference is a to be a little more open with accepting questions. I don't think that you have to be an expert to ask an interesting question that requires an expert level answer.
    – Jeromy Anglim Mod
    Feb 7 '12 at 2:14

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