I've been reading a lot of questions on this site and thinking about the concept of optimal question scope.

Questions in the cognitive sciences can often be substantially narrowed:

  • What type of people (children, adults, older adults, people in a particular category, disorder, etc.)
  • What type of task (either in terms of a specific task or a domain of tasks)
  • What context (applied, experimental, etc.)
  • etc.

Thus, what should we do with otherwise good questions that seem a a bit too broad in their scope?


  • I've added a separate question on the issue of what makes good scope so that this question can focus on how to deal with existing questions that seem too broad.
  • As to "how can we communicate this in general?" it's practically the same answer: meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/a/55/21 As a small tip in order to keep things structured, could you focus on one question per ... question please? :) Both questions are very similar now, better ask 'What is a good question' separately from 'How do we encourage good questions'.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Jan 23, 2012 at 12:51
  • 3
    We should certainly help them narrow the scope of their question to an answerable state. My general questions are "Why do you want to know this" "In what context" and "What made you think X might be the case?"
    – Ben Brocka
    Jan 23, 2012 at 14:35
  • @StevenJeuris Good point regarding question separation. With regards to "communicate in general", I was thinking about things like what could go in the FAQ regarding scope, but I guess that can wait until we have a clearer articulation of what proper scope means. Jan 23, 2012 at 21:39

1 Answer 1


I think the best course of action here should be to communicate with the users and help them narrow down what they're asking about.

This is especially important during the beta; we need to really help new users understand how to ask good, targeted questions. As time goes on and the site gets more established we can consider a jump to just closing broad questions and asking the OP to edit and flag for reopening.

I would suggest commenting on the user and asking them to narrow down the question. If they are unclear as to how, direct them to chat and see if we can help them there.

Ultimately, if the users are unwilling or unable to narrow down the question, then the questions remain bad questions (or are just inherently bad questions, like my question on sleep was) and they should be closed if they are not improved.

  • 1
    Indeed, "not a real question" is the close reason that's most applicable for questions that are too broad. Another option is to edit the user's question for them and invite them to post the remainder as a separate question or questions, although this approach can certainly be more disruptive and shouldn't be the first approach. It may be just the thing that gets a too-broad closed question reopened.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Jan 27, 2012 at 2:21

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