I'd like to prompt suggestions for replacement of the "homework" reason.

I've taken the format from https://academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4710/new-audience-specific-texts-for-our-custom-close-reasons - I think it's important to realize that different audiences (OP vs not-OP; experienced users vs visitors) see different versions of the text and to consider all of those parts when designing a new reason.

For voting on this Meta post, I'd recommend that votes on the question reflect agreement/disagreement with the overall idea that the "homework" close reason, as currently written, should be modified. Votes on the answers can reflect agreement/disagreement with specific suggestions.

I'd also ask that people use comments to suggest moderate changes to the text presented in any particular answer, but to propose substantial edits as a new answer. I don't know how to define moderate/substantial, though, so I guess y'all will have to use your judgment. Personally, I'm completely happy if you'd like to copy 99% of my own answer and re-post it as your own if you think your version makes a difference.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for doing this. I'll think about the suggestion in your answer over the weekend to see if I can see any omissions or pitfalls. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 10 '21 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ I'm swamped being in the middle of finals/grading season at my institution, but I do plan to react to this -- whether as a comment on your post or adding my own. Thanks for getting the ball rolling, Bryan. $\endgroup$ Dec 10 '21 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist We've waited quite some time to do anything, so I think we can wait a bit to build consensus and fine-tune as necessary; hopefully whatever we end up with will stay for a long time. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 10 '21 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ Life has also been very busy for me, and I'd like to post something as well, although most likely it'll just be tweaking around the edges. However, I would like to ask a related question: should we also be thinking about rewriting/editing biology.stackexchange.com/help/homework so it reflects our updated thinking with the new close reason? IMO, the two should go together. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Dec 18 '21 at 22:17
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    $\begingroup$ @MattDMo Yeah probably, and would probably be good to write a help article or meta post for other types of posts that need research. I think it'll be easier to do once we've set a close reason, though, and I think trying to bite off everything at once has been one of the roadblocks to not doing this sooner. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 18 '21 at 23:15

Close reason: This text is shown when selecting a reason while flagging or voting to close:

Needs references, support, or an attempt to solve

This question needs further content before it can be answered, which may include: a) References to support assumptions made, b) Sources of motivation or reason for asking a question (examples: a research paper or review, an article in a journalistic publication of record), or c) If the question is posed in the style of a homework/textbook question, test/exam question, essay prompt, or other form of coursework, we require an attempt by the original asker to solve the problem, highlighting specific parts they are having trouble with.

General post notice: This text is shown under a closed question to everybody:

Closed. This question needs supporting references or demonstrated effort towards a solution. It is currently not accepting answers.

Post-owner guidance: This text is shown under the general post notice to the author of a question:

Please edit the question to add important supporting material. Use references to support assumptions made in the question such as to demonstrate a phenomenon exists before asking "how" or "why". Explain any motivations for asking a question and support these with references to scientific papers, educational materials, or reputable news sources. If you are asking about an assignment or test question, whether for a class or self-study, please read this policy, demonstrate your thinking and effort towards an answer, and focus on the underlying biological concepts.

Privileged-user guidance: This text is shown under the general post notice to user with the close privilege:

Consider adding supporting references to improve this question. If possible, leave helpful comments that identify specific aspects of the question that can be improved. Please do not solve exam/quiz/homework-style questions in answers or comments.

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    $\begingroup$ I love it! This is very well thought out and I feel effectively covers the broad range of issues in "homework-type" problematic questions. $\endgroup$
    – jakebeal
    Dec 8 '21 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ I am unhappy about the wording of the "Close Reason". I think the primary focus on "references" may lead to trouble. And it really doesn't convey the idea of what we I think is required for any question — that the OP has thought about it sufficiently and done a little research into the problem. Certainly, main poor questions are based on assumptions for which no source is quoted, but "reference" implies Journal of Molecular Biology, rather than the more likely line in a text book. This is just setting a marker. I'll try to come up with a concrete alternative form of words over Christmas. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Dec 19 '21 at 12:12
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I finally took the time to read this. Nice job, @Bryan! Certainly sums it all up as well or better than I would have done -- so no reason to propose a secondary effort. Thanks! My one comment is that the CLOSE REASON is quite densely worded and more "difficult" to read (i.e., unlikely to be read) compared to the much smoother POST-OWNER GUIDANCE paragraph. I think I'll chew on this for a bit and will propose slightly different wording. My hope is that others can votes/follow-up on any such commented edits to demonstrate their utility. $\endgroup$ Dec 27 '21 at 20:29
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    $\begingroup$ I lied, I'm going to propose a modified CLOSE REASON in another post to capture some formatting. The rest is great! $\endgroup$ Dec 27 '21 at 20:36

Close reason: This text is shown when selecting a reason while flagging or voting to close:

Needs references, support, or an attempt to solve

This question needs further content before it can be answered, which may include:

  • $\begingroup$ first draft. I took @Bryan's CLOSE REASON paragraph, slimmed down some of the synonymous wording, reformatted into bullets, and added a bit about trying to answer a question before posting (outside the context of homework). Thoughts? Anything worth adding to or updating Bryan's well-voted post? $\endgroup$ Dec 27 '21 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ Can we use bullet points? (I think so) $\endgroup$ Dec 27 '21 at 20:40
  • $\begingroup$ Checking on whether bullets can be used...haven't found anything yet, though I'm suspicious that they can't be unless you've seen a site use them. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 29 '21 at 15:41

I am unhappy about the use of the word “references” in the suggestions of @BryanKrause and theforestecologist. I think it sounds too academic and will be misleading. I therefore suggest a single phrase — insufficiently prepared — as an alternative which has a wider embrace. (“Incompletely“ might be an alternative here.)

My own detailed breakdown is perhaps nearer that of theforestecologist, but I think order is important. Many questions show no prior research at all, and I would put this up front.

Finally, I have compressed the homework part for clarity and balance.

Close reason: This text is shown when selecting a reason while flagging or voting to close:

Insufficiently Prepared

This question needs further content before it can be answered, which may include one or more of:

  • Demonstration that standard sources have been consulted in the search for an answer before posting here
  • Justification of any premise on which the question depends (e.g. by reference to books, research papers, internet articles)
  • Explanation of the motivation or context of the question
  • If the question is in the style of a homework or exam question, or other form of coursework, an attempt to solve the problem, highlighting specific points of difficulty, is required.

I am happy to suggest reworkings of the other sections, but for the moment the close reason would seem most important.

Further thought

“Needs more preparation” might be more constructive.


Sorry, late to the party!

To avoid posting too many comments... I agree with the discussion, great suggestions. I'm okay with any of them, but there are a few key points we've raised:

  • 'References' is a technical term. So are mentions of 'standard sources'. Better avoided.
  • Sources, references or support are really not necessary for many questions.
  • Must steer clear of other (useful) close reasons, i.e. insufficient clarity/detail and insufficient focus.
  • Existing suggestions are too long, wordy and legalese for many of us. Let's keep it terse and functional.
  • No comprehensive bullet point lists, please. Close reasons are for using, not perusing.
  • As mentioned already, we can edit this page in the spirit of guidance and completeness.

I think it's well-established that the issue is questioner effort, rather than specifics like missing references or 'support' from other sources. We're amending a homework close reason to make it less ambiguous!

Phraseology like "demonstrated effort towards a solution" or "needs further content, which may be one of the following" don't resonate well with me, they irk me as much as the original homework close reason. I like "needs an attempt to solve" or "insufficiently prepared"!

Surely it's too late for full consideration, but here's my close reason I posted before this thread was opened here, I hope it can also be critiqued and perhaps be of influence by osmosis:

Question posed with insufficient effort. The questioner must show background research and motivate why the answer remains unclear to them after attempting to understand it.

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    $\begingroup$ In my experience, merely asking for effort isn't enough. It leads people to add stuff like "I searched Google and found nothing" and then they are upset when we say this is not effort. I wanted to move away from "effort" as the thing we need and instead speak about the concrete aspects to demonstrate it (references, sources) and also to not insult people who have put a lot of effort in but used the wrong kind of effort or failed to show it. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Jan 5 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Agree, I do think the word "effort" can be tricky. Let's forget it. But I strongly think the second sentence captures the entirety very wholly and with brevity. Show background research (=references, sources, basis for assumptions), and motivate why answer remains unclear after attempt to understand (= specify place of confusion, show efforts made and resultant misunderstandings). I can't think of a single thing that escapes this sentence that has been suggested above. The suggestions are knobbly lists at the moment... All these additional included details should be on another (wiki) page. $\endgroup$
    – S Pr
    Jan 6 at 10:07

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