I am new to Biology and am very interested to know how things work around here.

The question here seems perfectly valid to me. Yet it has been put on hold as homework question.

I checked the OP. I saw that he was a new user with account only in biology.

  1. If an OP who has, say a 1000 rep at SO, posts the same question, will it be put on hold as a homework question?
  2. If so, can you cite any example?
  3. Does the reputation of OP have any role in deciding whether the question is put on hold as homework type?

The problem I can see here is the varied scenario:

  1. The OP knows very little about biology, as (s)he is a, say programmer. So to understand a curious phenomena instead of sifting through whole wikipedia pages, struggling to understand a whole lot of terminologies, their application etc... (s)he posts a question in Biology, which gets closed as homework
  2. The OP really is a student who is posting his/her homework question
  3. The OP is a new person trying to gain some reputation AND getting his/her question answered (some OPs in this case might know answers to question posted)
  4. OP has already tried to search for answers but can get nowhere, maybe precisely because (s)he does not know how to search for it (Lack of research was cited as the reason for 'Homework Question'). Answers to some questions can be easily found if the right terminology is used in searching. However in case, the OP does not know that (term) and posts the question here, biologists who know such terminology can consider the question as silly and put it on hold.
  5. The time given for the research is very short and the OP has to complete his/her task within alloted time - It would be very bad if the question would be closed without atleast a good reference so the OP can do research.
  6. The subject is too broad to find the specifics, which would be a very good reason to post a question here, even if such specifics could easily be found by reading through whole article

Edit 1: The question cited above is just an example to show that questions which seem valid to some would seem as homework question to others. I am not asking for an explanation as to why this question was closed.

Based on the answer by Dustin, I see that my question should also include the level of expertise expected from an OP.

  • $\begingroup$ Part of any good education is learning how to search for information. That's why papers involving research are assigned. For us to be the "volunteer researchers" would be to hinder a student, not to help. Also, re. #5: we are not responsible in any way to someone who cannot complete a task in the allotted time. That is between the student and their teacher. Re #6: we are not proofreaders. This is a site where people volunteer their time. Guidelines are in place to protect everyone involved. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 7:36
  • $\begingroup$ I am pointing out that they need not be students in the first place. I am not taking about responsibility. I don't understand what you mean by proofreading $\endgroup$
    – One Face
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 8:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What kind of people would be in position #5, if not students? About #6, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 8:54
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, I see. I thought it applied to the whole post. I agree what you said applies to #5 $\endgroup$
    – One Face
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 8:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ For 1:1, I think the reputation at a specific site could unconsciously affect the risk of getting closed, but not StackExchange-wide reputation. As for 2:1, this is bad excuse, and the same applies to BioSE users that ask bad questions at SO. If you post a basic Q with no coding attempts your question will get closed. It also relates to the scope/audience of the site, which for BioSE is a"...site for biology researchers, academics, and students". In the case you have linked, the close reason isn't that important - it could just as well be closed as "unclear what you're asking" $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 12:41
  • $\begingroup$ I added 2 so as to agree that indeed it could be a homework question. (Making an attempt to represent all situations that can give rise to a question closed as homework) . $\endgroup$
    – One Face
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 13:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Btw... if you would close a question posted by Jeff Atwood, I salute you Sir! $\endgroup$
    – One Face
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 13:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @CRags Yeah, that would be harsh/slightly cool. What I was aiming for was name recognition though - well known/established users at a site might have an advantage, but I doubt that many BioSE users recognize top users at SO (J Atwood might be an exception). $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


The OP knows very litte about biology, as (s)he is a, say programmer…

I don't think that is a justification. Being an expert in one field does not exempt someone from going through the basics of another field if they want to understand the latter. I'll give my own example. 2 years back I didn't know any linux commands. I needed to know some basic stuff to do some analysis. I would simply search "how to do xxx in linux". SO really helped but I didn't need to ask too many questions. Also I read the GNU awk manual or at least basic book on sed and awk before asking questions about it. Now I am so happy with linux that I stopped using any other OS.

All I want to say is that to learn something you need to make some effort. There are already plenty of good resources available and all one has to do is a google search.

Not knowing terminologies is fine and questions are not closed for not using the right terminology but asking entire topics and expecting spoonfeeding is not right.

The OP really is a student who is posting his/her homework question

Homework is given in schools so that the students can think on their own. Asking it here without making any effort defeats that purpose.

The OP is a new person trying to gain some reputation

That would need a good question.

OP has already tried to search for answers but can get nowhere

They should mention that in the question. They should say what they tried and what didn't work.

The time given for the research is very short and the OP has to complete his/her task within

Too bad, it is the teacher's fault. We cannot deal with problems in education system.

The subject is too broad to find the specifics

The question should not be so broad that it would require a very long answer (People should try to read review articles or wikipedia and ask specific doubts. If they have many then they can be asked as separate questions which is perfectly fine).

But yes, there is no real metric for classifying a question as homework. We have had a lot of discussions on this topic.


On most of the stackexchange networks, your reputation doesn't matter when people vote to close your question. If you ask a poor question, you generally get a poor response, downvotes, and closure unless the OP edits their post to meet the site standards.

As for why that question is closed, I can only speculate, but I believe it was closed since the first part of the question doesn't take graduate level education to decipher: "Which sex of trees bear fruit?". A Google search on this will give you many easy to understand answers. Therefore, the OP didn't even put in the basic amount of effort on their question.

We have all seen questions that are PSQ (problem statement question) not get closed but that generally occurs when $(1)$ the question is very interesting to the community or $(2)$ the question is highly non-trivial. My personal opinion of the linked post is that it is neither interesting nor non-trivial so of course users will want to get rid of due to the lack of effort by the OP.

This post can be re-opened if the OP does a little work, edits their post, and states what they found out and where they are struggling. Most sites don't condemn those who put together an honest effort.

Also, you should read my answer to What should be done with questions of low or poor quality.

  • $\begingroup$ On sites like ask Ubuntu, Linux / Unix the general consensus is to permit any question as long as it's not too broad once and then be strict on closing duplicates $\endgroup$
    – One Face
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ That question was cited as an example. $\endgroup$
    – One Face
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 5:44
  • $\begingroup$ @CRags Linux and Ubuntu generally have very technically answers and Ubuntu is geared towards people brand new to Linux operating systems which is why they tend to be more lenient, but I have seen many questions get closed on Ubuntu. If someone ask how to enter root, I am pretty sure that question will get shut down since it is easy to Google. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 5:45
  • $\begingroup$ @CRags I have even had a question closed on Ubuntu maybe more but that is the first one I saw. $\endgroup$
    – dustin
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 5:50
  • $\begingroup$ @CRags Askubuntu is more of a troubleshooting site. Even then I think redundant questions are closed. But usually there are issues with some latest updates and that technically makes such questions new. $\endgroup$
    Commented Jan 13, 2015 at 9:09

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