Following up the post about homework question policies, this user has asked 11 questions, all homework in nature, and has not attempted to answer at least some of them, nor tried answering any other questions. This is his latest question on mutant crosses. As for the homework policy, we just shouldn't answer if there's been no attempt at an explanation or solution by the user, but how do we deal with users that only ask homework problems?

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    $\begingroup$ We need to really nail down our homework policy, so that we can start enforcing it consistently. That's the main problem here. $\endgroup$ Commented May 7, 2012 at 8:22
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist I made my accepted answer community wiki, so missing points can be added. Maybe we should create a meta question to gather links to other meta questions concerning new users violating\not knowing site rules, so we can easily point to in a comment with a link? Probably we can adopt more guidelines from physics and skeptics.se than homework $\endgroup$ Commented May 7, 2012 at 11:56
  • $\begingroup$ Look me probably about 50 homework questions in Math.SE here but I do use references! Some qs are lower quality but some better, always hard to know beforehand. I tried hard to make the content readable to future random walkers. Homeworks are good, they are still questions. Please, stop suggesting discrimination in words such as homeworks. "Homework discrimination" can be much worse problem...perhaps the reason for "homework obfuscation". $\endgroup$
    – user911
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ ...what about monetizing homework -threads with references to drive quality up? I think it would not require much to computationally preprocess the threads (but a lot of monotonous cleaning etc) and organize them to some sort of catalogs -- a bit like SO library. $\endgroup$
    – user911
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ I see comments and answers written by mathematicians or physicists and I just want to point out that homework tasks in biology are quite different. Unless it demand some "wet work" it is usually just finding proper paragraph in textbook. Especially in highschool. $\endgroup$
    – Marta Cz-C
    Commented May 24, 2012 at 20:54

4 Answers 4


A look at physics.se is interesting, because of how much homework questions can this site get and how do they deal with it.

https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/homework could become quite a lot, but you can filter -[homework]


The conclusion seems to be:

  • allow homework questions (of students(?)), probably high school questions can be answered by textbook\wikipedia and fall into category "not a real question"
  • rather explain how to solve the problem than giving out exact calculation\result, SE is a learning site and we all remember the many hours we put ourselves into solving course exercises (imho most important part of your studies) and how important this is to really understand theories, solve problems on your own correctly and graduate successfully.
  • the questioner should not simply copy paste a textbook problem, but explain what he tried and his specific problems are, otherwise I tend to downvote or even vote to close as too localized. If we explain misunderstandings, those homework questions might be useful for other user too. So in the best case such homework questions dont look like a homework question ;)
  • $\begingroup$ this is a good answer. Your second bullet point raises another interesting question, though: what do we do about answers which simply answer the question with no explanation? $\endgroup$
    – Shep
    Commented May 6, 2012 at 20:31
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    $\begingroup$ If you have enough regular user (this site imo has) than a lot of moderation task can be solved by upvoting, downvoting, non-voting. The better formatted and well-explained answer gets my upvote in this case. Voting should save you moderation time. Anyway homework questions on physics are so localized that they dont earn many upvotes at all due to lack of interest, but we need to prevent seeding this site with copy pasted textbook problems $\endgroup$ Commented May 7, 2012 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ Re the middle point would that include going through working step by step? $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Commented May 11, 2012 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ @RoryM Well, I would not forbid such questions, but Im also not very inclined to answer them with much effort or step by step tutorial, depends on the answerer. I dont expect much upvotes for such Q&A and therefore not much effort likewise, thats why the questionner should make clear what his specific problem with a specficic questions is (how to solve problems is not the topic of this site), or it might get no attention and we dont need a lot unanswered questions here. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2012 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ -1 for suggesting obfusction as a joke at the end. Obfuscation helps none. I think the common policy should start from obfuscation which means proper references. Please, see my answer. $\endgroup$
    – user911
    Commented May 23, 2012 at 14:20

I think this site can be very helpful to students, we should encourage them to come here with specific questions.

That said, students are capable of asking good factual and focused questions. The post you linked to is, most importantly, a bad question for any SE, independent of being copied directly from the user's homework. Why?

  • It starts by talking about the student. The bio final has no relevance to the concept.
  • It has "Problem:" mid text. This should be implied.
  • It includes a table. Never include a table unless the question is specifically about how to read the table. But it's not, it's about...
  • ...well, it has three sub-questions.

A repeat user is infinitely better than 11 one-time askers because he can learn. I'd say leave a comment and downvote the question. The SO model is supposed to keep bad users from hurting the site, but it will only work with your feedback.


Source [here](http://xkcd.com/285/).

Accept homeworks only if they are properly referenced. Academic dishonesty to dogs, stop the buck here! Obfuscating homeworks does no good to this site and will not credit the author of the questions. It is better to learn proper references here or the painful way later.

I think all homework questions without references should be banned unless the op acknowledges that s/he cannot offer the refences (sometimes that is the case because the lecturers/teachers want less attention, not to reveal the poor quality of their teaching etc).

Please, drive quality up with references.


The homework tag still seems to be strongly underused, and I sense that BioSE has had an increase in (what appears to be) homework/study questions lately. There are users that seem to only post homework questions or obvious study questions (questions that arise during textbook reading), without any reference to how they have tried to solve their problems and without using the homework tag.

I don't know how we should handle this. I find it tricky (and rude) to go in and retag a question to homework when you can only suspect the motivations of the original poster. At the same time, just reposting your homework for others to solve at BioSE (without any attempts of your own) is clearly wrong and against our homework policy.

  • $\begingroup$ I find myself more inclined to answer higher level questions, on the simple fact that it puts more higher level content on the site (which we need). $\endgroup$
    – Atl LED
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @AtlLED The thing is that if these questions are simply ignored they will contribute to a low answer% (as well as clutter the site). For the record, I think that homework questions are fine, but then they should be tagged as such and the poster should provide their own attempt to a solution - not simply pass their assignments along for others to solve. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 18:20

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