This site, despite being around for 4 years at this point has yet to graduate from beta due to it's inability to maintain a solid and knowledgeable user base in the form of "expert researchers", as discussed in this overview of meta. To enable this, I propose the following new close vote reason:

Off Topic: This question does not appear to be a research-level question in the Cognitive Sciences

This also changes the scope of the site from:

Cognitive Sciences Stack Exchange is for researchers, academics, students, and anyone else needing expert answers to advanced questions in the cognitive sciences.

To something more similar to what was put forth by Theoretical Computer Science SE:

Cognitive Science Stack Exchange is a Q&A site for professional researchers in cognitive science and related fields. We welcome research-level questions in: LIST

The emphasis is on the intent of this close-vote reason and scope change. Phrasing of these two things can be decided in a following proposal.

Background and Discussion

This is a re-iteration of concerns previous voiced in regards to scope, what is considered a good/bad question and how to attract experts. To summarize, this site has a lot of basic questions which are driving away the community of experts we need to thrive.

To keep the experts, we need to be empowered to eliminate these bad basic questions using the new close vote reason mentioned above, which will change the scope of our site.

What is research-level?

Heuristically, any question:

  • That would could be talked about between a final year undergraduate (in other words, someone who has a basic understanding of the domain in question from an introductory course/text/search) and a professor/graduate
  • Who's phrasing would make sense as an introduction or abstract in a reputable journal, assuming the answer would be part of the body of the article

However, any question under the following criteria would be rejected:

  • Anything that cannot be tested: personal theories, fictional and/or hypothetical psychological situations
  • Anything that would be trivial for a researcher in the Cognitive Sciences to answer
  • Anything with a large number of unfounded assumptions that need to be untangled before an answer can be formulated

How to vote

These proposals have never worked before due to the decision making process being too vague. Consequently, to vote on this proposal, please follow the instructions here.

Arguments supporting this change

This is similar to various adjustments put forth by other StackExchange sites. Theoretical Computer Science, Physics, as well as Chemistry both have very limited scopes and were thus able graduate quickly. Biology put forward a close-vote for homework questions, similar to the proposed close vote reason in discouraging basic non-research level questions, allowing it to also graduate.

Potential counter arguments followed by my reply

Why not be nice to those newer to Cognitive Science and their general questions?

One of the intended purpose of StackOverflow was “to give Google something useful to point to”. However, history this purpose has proven to be unsustainable for a site such as CogSci.SE which depends on a community of experts. Consequently, I would suggest Quora is the place for newcomers to CogSci to ask their entry-level general and hypothetical questions that are not research-level.

Creating a community for CogSci researchers is impossible.

It has been previously, but this is the platform to do it on. We are able to attract experts, however they leave. I think this is similar to what happened in Chemistry. Previous to their site, there was no blogging community for Chemistry researchers, however the site is currently thriving.

In Conclusion

It is my opinion that for the long term health of this site, we must restrict the scope and add a new close vote reason to enforce this. This will motivate current expert researcher users to stay, bring back expert researchers who have left due to frustration and bring in new expert researchers who need a forum to ask their research questions.


  • Discussion and Voting ends on August 2nd 2016
  • Decision Timeframe ends on August 9th 2016
  • I would first focus on expected question expertise before attempting to address deviating topics all within one post. Furthermore, this proposal does not attempt to describe (or present) examples of 'expert' questions vs 'non-expert' questions and largely leaves this open to the reader. Saying 'bad' questions should be closed with a new close vote reason, whereas 'good' can stay open is pretty much saying nothing; 'good' and 'bad' are exactly the topics which need to be discussed.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 9:56
  • In other words: what defines an 'expert' and more importantly, an 'expert question'?
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 9:58
  • It might also be helpful to compile a representative list of Qs that you think would be closed under this rule but not under the rules as they currently are collectively implemented
    – Josh
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 14:05
  • I don't like "Anything that cannot be tested: personal theories, fictional and/or hypothetical psychological situations". I understand the sentiment behind it, but as phrased it is too easy to use to rule out legitimate and interesting conceptual and philosophical questions. The rest seems fine, but I will read more closely later. Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 17:17
  • @ArtemKaznatcheev that's a good point that I hadn't considered. Could it be rephrased or should it be removed entirely?
    – Seanny123
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 15:55

4 Answers 4


I disagree, as many folks are undergrad students needing help for their studies. Of course the people answering stuff will likely be grad students or PhDs, but we should definitely not reject questions from students. Rejecting this bulk of people would further degrade the number of visits and more importantly, the number of questions per day. If we ever wish to graduate, limiting the site to 'researchers' would be about the worst thing you can do.

Instead, we should close poorly researched questions. At Biology, and I have mentioned this in chat, there is the off-topic homework tag. Although the tag name itself has been debated hotly (it may be insulting to researchers), its use is widely accepted, namely to close-vote poorly-researched questions or trivial questions that are answered with a single Google-search and more suitable for quora or reddit.


This proposal is incomplete. Please refer to my other proposal asking for context, a combination of initial research AND/OR motivation.

I disagree with the proposed new close vote and scope. Instead, I would like to argue that the questions of laymen meet some particular requirements, because some questions are in fact interesting. In other words, with good quality posts, there is no need for excluding people and it will probably not drive away experts. We must accept that psychology is a popular field, for both researchers and laymen, and therefore we will always receive a broad audience.

I would like to argue for Steven Jeuris proposal a new close reason:

This question provides insufficient motivation. It provides no information on why the author is asking the question, nor why others would be interested in it.

Motivation may be either scientific relevance (and thus initial research), some logical reasoning on how you came up with the question, or just why you are doing the research. There is no reason for not providing a motivation for a question. By adding motivation we get rid of obnoxious one-sentence questions that even high-level user may ask.

The people are not the problem, the questions are.

Here is a perfect example why motivation is necessary: Are there empirical studies showing that one sex is more sexually selective than the other? The question was:

Does anyone know of any other empirical studies that support or go against the idea that heterosexual women are more selective in who they date, have sex with or have relationships than heterosexual men?

The question was really odd. It seemed as if the person is unable to find a girlfriend or something like that, and wanted to know why women have such high standards. After some comments and an edit, though still phrased a little cumbersome, the question makes a lot more sense.

  • 2
    I don't think the proposal targets people so much as it targets a broad kind of question that has generally been acceptable on the site. I don't see anything in the proposal that says that a good quality question from a layperson would be rejected. A consequence of this change would probably be to shift the user base of the site, but hopefully in a positive direction.
    – Josh
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 14:30
  • 1
    @Josh It got updated for the better since. ;p The more specific requirements were originally not listed.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 5:10
  • I added the (now deleted) comment history on pastebin, for those interested in knowing how the new question got shaped into a decent post.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 23:25

I would like to make another close-vote reason to ensure the quality of our questions, without making the website for researchers only.

There are three points we hear most often. First is the specificity of the question. This one is covered really nicely by "this question is too broad". The two other points are (1) Motivation, as discussed in my previous answer (and Steven's answer at this question), and (2) Initial research, for which there is still no good close-vote suggestion. I would like to argue that we can combine these two points into one close-vote reason:

This question provides insufficient context . The question shows no attempt of initial research AND/OR shows no relevance of the question to CogSci.SE. Let the readers know what you know, and at what level you would like an answer. Moreover, show why you want this question answered, or better, how and why others would want to answer it? The more context you give, the better we'll be able to answer your question.

With this phrasing, there is finally an all-encompassing close-vote reason that gets at the essence, and promotes improvement of the question. I believe that the OPs that receive these close-reasons are smart enough to understand what component is lacking.

  • Suggested rephrasing: This question provides insufficient context . The question shows no attempt of initial research AND/OR shows no relevance of the question to CogSci.SE. Let the readers know what you know, and at what level you would like an answer. Moreover, show why you want this question answered, or better, how and why others would want to answer it? The more context you give, the better we'll be able to answer your question.
    – Seanny123
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:16
  • Also, should you merge there two answers? I think they might be redundant? If not, would you mind making them more distinct?
    – Seanny123
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 18:18
  • @Seanny123, done and done. I've noted that my older suggestion about motivation is incomplete. However, I would like to keep it there for the separate argumentation for motivation/relevance. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 19:31

I support the decision for the new close vote and scope, although the precise phrasing of both of these can be determined in a following proposal if this one is accepted.

Comment on this answer to support it as discussed in this proposal.

  • I, Seanny123, support this answer to the proposal.
    – Seanny123
    Commented Jun 7, 2016 at 22:53
  • 1
    I support this answer to the proposal.
    – mayaPapaya
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 0:18
  • 1
    I support this answer to the proposal.
    – tbekolay
    Commented Jun 8, 2016 at 20:04
  • Vote against and explained in my answer above. Using the voting system (up or down vote the original proposal in the question or answers to it) is a much more straightforward approach to this. As of now, the question may have been getting upvotes because of its scope, not the idea conveyed in it, if that makes sense. Answering your own proposal question makes things exceedingly complicated.
    – AliceD Mod
    Commented Jun 13, 2016 at 19:58

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