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In chat, we've talked about how unformed, unsourced questions weaken the utility of CogSci.SE, and how requiring some initial research might improve the general level of questions coming from new users. I would love an off-topic option, and possibly text in Ask A Question, saying something along the lines of

(Off-Topic option)
This question gives no information about what steps the author has taken to answer the question on their own.

(Ask a Question text)
Remember that it is easier for readers to answer your question usefully and appropriately if you show us what steps you have already taken to answer the question on your own or point us to the sources you have used for information.

The only concern I have with this feature would be figuring out what level and source type of initial research "counts"--but personally, I'd be fine with anything at all because even a link to a foolishly-written blog entry would give us a lot of information about sophistication level and perspective.

There seem to be lots of weak questions that don't quite fit under any of our close reasons, either because they are underarticulated or because they make so many assumptions as to beg the question. We need a way to clean up these questions! I'd be interested in hearing whether the community would support this option as I've written it, and/or if there are changes in wording that should be made.

7

I understand Jeromy's concerns:

[...] the purpose of this site is not to help the person asking the question (helping the OP is a merely a nice side-effect). [...] the purpose of the site is to generate re-usable content that will help hundreds and thousands of people searching for answers on the internet.

In that sense, questions which show lack of initial research can still be useful since they would still generate re-usable content.

However, I do feel the "there's no such thing as a stupid question" argument can be taken too far.

What really grinds my gears, are unmotivated questions, generally a side effect of not having done any initial research. Do such questions really contribute to "help hundreds and thousands of people searching for answers on the internet"? Do we want questions formulated from individual perspectives (think the old "too localized" close reason), based on their own individual unsubstantiated hypotheses?

At a minimum, I believe the user's motivation for asking the question should be clear:

  • Why are you asking this question?
  • Who else has been asking this question?
  • What would answer the question?

This does not imply elaborate research, rather requires a minimal level of logical reasoning and relating one's own opinion to that of others.

This could be phrased in an off-topic close reason as follows:

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.

  • 2
    It would maybe be helpful to add to this closure reason why motivation is relevant? (i.e., it helps answerers target their information and produces more useful answers, I would imagine) – Krysta Apr 24 '15 at 14:01
  • I upvoted @Krysta's comment, but I also like how concise it is currently. Overall, I think this close message is more than sufficiently good, if not perfect. – Christian Hummeluhr Apr 24 '15 at 14:32
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    Really like this idea, and the three questions that are listed in bullet points would be sufficient explanation on a linked page. – Josh de Leeuw Apr 26 '15 at 2:01
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As Steven points out, the issue of initial research has been discussed several times in the past.

People have taken different positions on it over the while. I think we'd all like to see more well-researched questions, and I think the voting on questions reflects this.

For me the big issue is unclear or inappropriately scoped questions. These questions can not be answered. In some cases editing the question can produce a clear question. I think we should actively edit questions to make them clearer and better scoped, particularly when questions are asked by new users of the site that don't understand how the site works or who lack the expertise to properly ask a question.

The key thing for me is that the purpose of this site is not to help the person asking the question (helping the OP is a merely a nice side-effect). For me, the purpose of the site is to generate re-usable content that will help hundreds and thousands of people searching for answers on the internet.

Lack of initial research is associated with unclear questions. However if the question is clear and the person has not done any prior research, then the question can still form a good unit of knowledge for our site and for the internet.

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    I think one of your old questions really sums my views up nicely, but I don't agree with the answer you accepted as much as I agree with this. meta.cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/46/… – Christian Hummeluhr Apr 24 '15 at 5:18
  • Aren't the "unclear or inappropriately scoped questions" addressed by "unclear what you're asking", and "too broad"? I believe what we are trying to pinpoint here goes beyond that. Maybe not necessarily "no initial research", but a softer derivative of that. E.g. "unmotivated question" ... which would imply the necessity of research less explicitely. – Steven Jeuris Apr 24 '15 at 12:21
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    @StevenJeuris Yes. I think "unclear what you're asking" covers the scoping issue. I personally think that if the question is clear answerable and a little bit interesting, that a lack of motivation or initial research doesn't matter. – Jeromy Anglim Apr 26 '15 at 3:28
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Posting both specific options so folks can vote on them as answers as well as provide their own.

(Off-Topic option)
This question gives no information about what steps the author has taken to answer the question on their own.

  • It'd be more fair if you had also posted an answer "questions without reference are on-topic". – Franck Dernoncourt Nov 10 '18 at 2:09
3

After providing some personal guidance on a few questions which were suffering from this problem I came up with the following possible close reason, focusing on the unsubstantiated hypothesis problem we seem to be suffering from, but clarifying what to do about it:

Questions to validate an unsubstantiated hypothesis are off-topic. You either need to ground your hypothesis in scientific research, or ask for clarification on a specific scientific topic.

  • The latter part is not immediately clear to me. Perhaps a better phrase is: Questions without substantial motivation are off-topic. You either need to ground your hypothesis in scientific research or logical reasoning, or discuss the relevance of your question. – Robin Kramer Jun 7 '16 at 20:05
1

Posting both specific options so folks can vote on them as answers as well as provide their own.

(Ask a Question text)
Remember that it is easier for readers to answer your question usefully and appropriately if you show us what steps you have already taken to answer the question on your own or point us to the sources you have used for information.

  • I'm not certain we have to ability to add something like that. Afaik we can only edit the two boxes in the tour section underneath "Get answers to practical, detailed questions". I believe this tour is shown to new users. – Steven Jeuris Apr 23 '15 at 17:49
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    Aw, bugger. I don't remember the tour at all, so I certainly can't expect anybody else to abide by it. . . – Krysta Apr 23 '15 at 18:25
-1

I proposed this alternative Off-Topic close reason in chat:

This question is phrased purely in terms of the author's personal tacit knowledge.

I proposed this alternative because of the research requirement dilemma: if we require people do any research, however minor, then what may happen is that they actually do it, find the answer to their question, then never ask a question here.

This tries to 'formalize' Jeromy's old examples from 2012 (though a different answer was accepted at the time, the question has continued to come up periodically). These demonstrate not so much initial research as an initial attempt to just articulate the question's motivation and/or assumptions. Satisfying the above criterion would take no more than saying "I've read the first hit of a Google search, and I received conflicting answers," which I think is very reasonable.

As I am a fairly abrasive writer, this formulation can probably be improved, but I feel like the basic logic behind it is solid. On the off-chance that we get a tacit question which is actually good (and after considerable searching, I have not so far found even one in our lists), we can simply not vote to close it.

  • As @Josh pointed out, this has some conceptual overlap with unclear questions. However, this differs in that it focuses on a set of questions which tend to fall roughly in the middle between "unclear" and "too localized/self-help," but not completely either while still having no (good) answers (e.g., this question about a very specific nightmare cogsci.stackexchange.com/questions/9284/…) – Christian Hummeluhr Apr 24 '15 at 6:44
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    I agree "no initial research" might eliminate useful questions as pointed out by Jeromy, but I'm not particularly fond of your phrasing here either. How do you feel about a lesser "unmotivated question" as I commented on his answer? A first google hit could be sufficient motivation in that regard. – Steven Jeuris Apr 24 '15 at 13:17

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