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I've been here a while, and I've seen some discussion, but don't know that we have a consensus as a community/site regarding answering basic questions. Really basic. Like, What is meant by "a codon codes for an amino acid"? Does it mean in order to build that amino acid you must combine those three nucleotides? (I've included most of the question so you don't even have to click on it.) It's so basic, it's startling, and I don't startle easily.*

I know it's tempting to toss off a quick answer to redirect someone who has made such an error, but I thought that's what comments are for it might be better to VTC and redirect (maybe not answer) in a comment.

I've been wrong before, so I don't want to repeat that mistake. Thanks.

*I think the last time I was this startled by a biology question was when a 4th year med student rotating through the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) asked on rounds why, if a intubated preemie is on 100% O2, is there CO2 in expired air? Which is a much better question than the one linked to above, come to think of it.

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    $\begingroup$ Having taught premed undergraduates who were completely befuddled by a basic physiology class, your example is indeed startling but unfortunately not all that surprising... There seems to be some confusion on how interrelated medicine and physiology are... $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Jun 22 '18 at 15:52
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I've put that question on hold.

The consensus is that such a question should be put on hold because it's 'homework'. The homework close reason is a long debated one, as it is currently deployed as

Questions without any prior research effort are offtopic here

If OP in the linked question had shown some prior research effort, for example by looking at a web page explaining protein synthesis, and OP got stuck on for example the difference between mRNA and tRNA or something, I would've accepted it, as at least OP has sifted through a wiki page and got drowned in the information overload on wikipedia (a common and valid pitfall, completely warranting an SE question imho).

As of now, the question is indeed way too basic. But it is a gray area. Some questions don't show much research effort, but are far less obvious than the linked question. The linked question is a typical, basic schoolbook question and therefore the homework tag applies well, even if it isn't homework as such, but the question screams 'Please open your book before asking, kiddo'.

I know it's tempting to toss off a quick answer to redirect someone who has made such an error, but I thought that's what comments are for it might be better to VTC and redirect (maybe not answer) in a comment.

Answering, and even commenting on such questions is, imo, a bad thing, as in encourages more people to ask homework question as a hit-and-run strategy. 'Let the rusty old fellas babble and scream, I'm outta here and have my answer'.

I've been wrong before, so I don't want to repeat that mistake

You weren't wrong, you brought up an interesting and relevant issue, count the upvotes!

  • I think the last time I was this startled by a biology question was when a 4th year med student rotating through the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) asked on rounds why, if a intubated preemie is on 100% O2, is there CO2 in expired air? Which is a much better question than the one linked to above, come to think of it.

It's a better question, in the sense that it can still be answered as 'It depends, because if it's alive and kickin' of course there's CO2, if there isn't any carbon dioxide, then the kiddo isn't among the living anymore....

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    $\begingroup$ "Questions without any prior research effort are off-topic here." If that's how it is deployed, perhaps that's what it should say ;) $\endgroup$ – canadianer Jun 22 '18 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ @canadianer - I'm really sorry this is still an open issue... But yes, according to several meta posts (I can dig them up) a lot of folks agree on that. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Jun 22 '18 at 19:04

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