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Within these question/answer communities, what 'grade level' are you supposed to answer on or how do you craft the language of your answer? Do you personalize that to the language being used in the question?

I'm a physician-scientist and very impressed with some of the insightful questions being asked by some students, but answering them completely and unambiguously takes a bit of technical speak. What do others think or how do you approach this?

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I mostly scan the question and when it becomes clear OP is newbie and uninformed in Bio (e.g. How is DNA Read), I adapt my general tone and include links to accessible (but credible) websites when using jargon. Although wikipedia as a basis for answer content is not OK, it is encouraged to use it to explain jargon*.

When OP asks a specific question obviously being well informed (e.g., Why is the Krebs cycle considered a part of aerobic metabolism if molecular oxygen is not involved in any of the reactions in the cycle), approaching this person with popular/baby-talk will be kind of insulting (I have been addressed with ask your teacher to bladibla being a postdoc :-). In this case, attaching links on jargon is still helpful for other interested folks, but the nature of the answer can, and probably should, be more technical (and therefore, less transparent). This may be not much of an issue if the topic is difficult to grasp for laymen anyway.

* Still I prefer linking to university websites and the likes over the use of wikis

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    $\begingroup$ Not just here, but in general I think the more scientists avoid the use of jargon when answering questions the better. It's not too difficult to make things clearer without affecting the intelligence of your answer. $\endgroup$ – Amory Jun 23 '15 at 16:07
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Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students.

So you can expect pretty well everything but keep in mind that this site is not solely for students and we wish to attract professionals as much as we do students. I think you can generally infer the level of detail required from the question; student level questions and phrasing are quite recognizable. Even for simpler questions, more technical answers can often be appreciated by a broader audience (ie professionals). In these cases, people sometimes provide a simpler answer followed by a longer, more technical answer in the same post. I don't think detail is ever a bad thing as long as we realize that not everyone is in our specific field or at the same level of understanding. And even if your answer is too technical for the asker, they can always ask for clarification.

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  • $\begingroup$ thanks canadianer - that's very helpful - this is a really interesting community and I'll be following along to contribute wherever I can. I originally had to join the "statistics" community for a graduate level biostatistics course I was enrolled in, but have really enjoyed looking at the biology community answers/questions. $\endgroup$ – Vance L Albaugh Jun 20 '15 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @VanceAlbaugh I agree, biology is way better than statistics ;) $\endgroup$ – canadianer Jun 21 '15 at 5:36

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