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Question

A similar meta post asks how much research should be done to prevent closure. The 1 answer (with 1 vote currently) elluded to "it's up to those with the closing privilege". Hopefully this question won't recieve an arbitrary/subjective answer and we can settle on some rule of thumb for the difference between the tag, and the close vote.

When should we add a homework tag instead of closing the question?


Discussion

I think homework questions have a place on this site. Not everyone has access to text-books, and Wikipedia can get very complicated very quickly. Sharing expertise on the best way to do an assignment may help not only the student OP, but also many other students struggling to grasp concepts or finding an entry point to the content.

I recently answered a question about an MSA assignment. This is clearly homework from some course or other and has the homework tag. I was half expecting to see it in the review queue for closure.

An example of a similar homework situation that was closed was someone asking about dilutions. That question had the "homework" tag and was still closed. The list of closing as homework despite it having a homework tag is long.

We talk about "homework questions" a lot, partially because we get a lot of easily researchable questions from inquisitive people who see this site as a first port of call, partly because we sort-of disagree about when to close questions as "homework", and sometimes because we get people struggling with homework assignments who are essentially asking us to do it for them.


When the tag could be used without closure

  • Should it be the focus of answers to introduce generalisations if possible, avoiding the need to close a good enough question? (The dilution question top answer could have used algebra rather than numbers for example)
  • Should there be an attempted answer/research present in the question (refer to this question to see why this is iffy)?
  • Should there be a threshold difficulty of questions that remain open? (I super don't agree with this one and think the egg question was a bad question, but on-topic.)
  • Questions that are transparently open about being homework should stay open, and answers could answer with tips and guides rather than a specific answer.

I disagree with most of those suggestions, but I hope we can come up with something. I'm struggling, and I am sure some others are too given what I see ends up in the review queue, of when to use this close vote.

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  • $\begingroup$ The homework tag should be removed anyway as it is a meta tag. $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Dec 1 '15 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist Do you mean this specific homework tag in my question, or homework tags generally? $\endgroup$ – James Dec 1 '15 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ The entire tag should be removed $\endgroup$ – Mad Scientist Dec 1 '15 at 8:52
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    $\begingroup$ @MadScientist To me, removing the tag doesn't make any sense, and would just seem nitpicky and pedantic. It is used alot, it is clearly informative, and some people (myself included) use it to filter questions. It also categorizes questions, which is arguably what tags are for. The tag is also the second most used one at Chemistry-SE and Physics-SE $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Dec 1 '15 at 9:48
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As I understand it, the distinction between an acceptable question that satisfies the sites homework policy and one that gets a close vote is between whether or not the OP showed an effort to answer the question and includes their logic of how they went about trying to solve the problem or whether they just post the question and are looking for someone else to answer the question for them.

There are several very difficult questions that can be asked in biology and it is understandable that people will get confused and need help, it is just that they need to show that they made an honest effort.

I think homework questions have a place on this site. Not everyone has access to text-books, and Wikipedia can get very complicated very quickly. Sharing expertise on the best way to do an assignment may help not only the student OP, but also many other students struggling to grasp concepts or finding an entry point to the content.

If a question can be answered in such a way as it will benefit people other than the OP, then that is a very good indication that the question should remain open and the Tag should be used to distinguish the question as homework.

The best answers on this site tend to the be the ones that go beyond the OPs needs and provide knowledge to a larger audience of users.

We talk about "homework questions" a lot, partially because we get a lot of easily researchable questions from inquisitive people who see this site as a first port of call, partly because we sort-of disagree about when to close questions as "homework", and sometimes because we get people struggling with homework assignments who are essentially asking us to do it for them.

These are generally questions where I would agree that the question could be closed, however I know that there are people who see a value in leaving these low hanging fruit open, for the same reason as stated above; if an answer can be provided that would benefit a much larger audience than just the OP, then there is sometimes more value in providing that answer and overlooking the poverty of effort by the OP.

I can't say that I can address bullet point 2, but I would say that:

For 1, I think again that it depends on the quality of the answer given. Great answers to bad questions may have much more value than average answers to great questions.

For 3, this is more of a, dare I say, thought experiment by the OP, and I would not suspect that this arose from a homework question. It is entirely possible that the OP, not having any background in biology doesn't have the slightest clue where to start to look. Is there really a value in explaining to someone how to better research a question about biology when this may be the only time they are moved to think about a biological question in the first place? Here again, there might be an value in answering and not closing. Now if an experienced user with a lot of reputation asked such a question, then I would fully expect that they community would shame and ridicule them into closing the question of their own accord. ;-)

For 4, I would default back to the OP needs to at least show that they made some effort to think through the question and incorporate what they tried to do into the question. If they say "This is a homework question," and then just cut and past the question with no effort shown to answer, then the transparency does not let them off the hook for not complying with the homework policy.

One last though is that a comment of the homework policy and asking the OP to show their effort to answer the question can give them an opportunity to edit their question to comply. If they ignore, or come back with, I don't even know how to start, then I would say this may be a good indication that they question should indeed be closed.

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  • $\begingroup$ Your last point also test their willingness to engage with the community rather than a panicked "give me teh codes" question dump. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 1 '15 at 8:15
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    $\begingroup$ Pretty much. A lot of Homework questions tend to be First Posts. If the person shows a willingness to work with the community by incorporating the recommendations, then I think that they are at least showing they are willing to put in the effort to get an answer that will help them understand and not just give them an answer so that they can move on to something else. $\endgroup$ – AMR Dec 1 '15 at 8:18
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    $\begingroup$ @James, I would say that a good example of a user that "gets" how to write good homework questions is 21joanna12. Her (assuming) questions go beyond the simple, "what's this?" or " I don't understand that." and show a good deal of thought and insight beyond where she is in her studies. If all homework questions came to us as hers did, then we likely would not need to have these meta discussions. $\endgroup$ – AMR Dec 1 '15 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ @21joanna12's questions are better than my first attempts at asking questions here for sure! She hasn't used the homework tag. And there lies another layer of problem: good homework questions that are off the back of textbooks or classes don't need the homework tag. The questions that would legitimise the tag aren't using it. $\endgroup$ – James Dec 1 '15 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ @James , you have more than enough rep to make those tag edits. If you feel strongly enough that you think that those questions should get a homework tag as representative examples of how to write good homework questions, I don't think the community would have a problem with those edits. $\endgroup$ – AMR Dec 1 '15 at 8:39
  • $\begingroup$ Grand idea. I will ask 21joanna12 first though. I don't like interfering with other people too much, particularly with contentious things like #durn durn duuuuuurrrn the homework tag! $\endgroup$ – James Dec 1 '15 at 8:47
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In my opinion, the homework tag is for homework questions that are well-researched, and therefore belong on this site. As AMR said, not all people have access to textbooks, and if they had done research on the topic and got stuck due to the inability to search for the correct terms, they can be guided to the correct answer. These are the valuable homework questions that we should promote on this site.

Any other homework questions that are poorly researched should be VTCed. If the author of the question comes back and shows effort, it can be reopened (and it has in fact happened on multiple occasions). Otherwise, there is no reason to keep such questions on the site.

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