As announced in these upcoming changes to the vote to close system, we will soon be able to give custom off-topic reasons to users:

Off-topic closures will include feedback on what specifically is off-topic for that site.

  • Each site will have a list of its own specific pre-selected “Off-Topic” reasons
  • Each closer will either select one of the site's standard reasons from the list (for instance, “Recipe requests are off-topic, although recipe replacements, etc. are allowed”), or,
  • Closers can enter a free-form reason ("Your question appears to be about 'Cat Grooming', which is off-topic for Stack Overflow.")
  • Free-form reasons will be presented as comments, but the close dialogue will refer the reader to the comments for more info
  • Free-form reasons picked by closers will be available to subsequent close-voters on that question as one of the selections from the list These lists will be determined by the communities, and moderators will be able to update them, subject to review by each other, their community, and the SE team

Each person will be able to write their own custom feedback, however as a community we can decide on three pre-written templates.

So now we have to decide on what to have as our pre-written close notices.

Based on the advice given to moderators by the Stack Exchange team (please read in full), we need to decide on what are the most common reasons we are closing questions as off topic for, how to word them and which resources we should link to on meta (which seems like a good time as well to widen our meta knowledge base).

If you have a suggestion for an off topic close reason, post it below. We have a wide scope of mark-down available for formatting (no headings!) so feel free to be creative and the top three at any point in the future will be considered for activation on the site.

Please remember the following:

Your goal here is to communicate clearly with the people whose questions are being closed, with the people who are closing questions and with the people who will later read those questions and wonder why they were closed.

At a bare minimum, off-topic reasons should identify a specific topic considered inappropriate. If you're struggling to be specific, find an example of a question that is off-topic and discuss the factors that make it inappropriate for the site.

Whenever possible, try to explain why a given topic is not allowed - this is your chance to answer the inevitable question once rather than repeating it every time a question must be closed.

Provide resources that will aid askers in solving their problems: either instructions for asking the question in a more suitable fashion, links to a different site where the question may be considered on-topic.

Be as concise as possible. Save lengthy explanations and examples for meta FAQs that can be discussed and refined over time, and then include links to these in the off-topic reasons. Don't depend on anyone following these links though; keep critical information and guidance in the reason text itself.


Personal medical questions are off-topic on Biology. We can not safely answer questions for your specific situation and you should always consult a doctor for medical advice.

The community team have pre-populated the field with

Requests for medical advice are off-topic here. You should contact a qualified medical professional instead

Is this acceptable or should we change to our own wording?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'd like to work as a group on a new meta FAQ for medical questions to show the difference between acceptable medical science questions and personal questions. This one will get used a lot so please do discuss and edit. $\endgroup$ – Rory M Jun 22 '13 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ There should probably be a detailed explanation which questions fit this criteria and which don't. I've seen some question closed under assumption they were attempt at internet self-examination, where the "problem" would be ridiculous and the person asking even said that this wasn't their concern. Still, such questions get closed. $\endgroup$ – user1306322 Jun 22 '13 at 23:14
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    $\begingroup$ I prefer your original phrasing. The community team's seems like more of a brush-off, while the original phrasing makes the point about safety, which I think is relevant. $\endgroup$ – blep Jun 26 '13 at 1:17

I'll leave it to someone else to flesh this out better:

The premise of your question relies on factually incorrect information, and thus, your question cannot be answered in its current form.

  • $\begingroup$ While I agree with the close reason, I'm thinking that this is pretty similar to the SE general close reason "primarily opinion-based" (one of the options replacing "Not a real question" and "not constructive"). This close reason (factual mistakes) is not specific for SE biology and should be the same on all SE sites. However, I think that there should be a more clearly worded option at SE for this reason to close. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jun 27 '13 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ @fileunderwater: Right, I'd forgotten to take into account the new close reasons. Feel free to downvote :) $\endgroup$ – blep Jun 27 '13 at 17:31
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure how to handle this, and maybe the real problem is that general SE should have this (false premise, factual mistake) as a clearer option for close. I first interpreted "primarily opinion-based" so that it can be used against unfounded questions, but is really aimed to discourage from discussion-style questions lacking a clear answer. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jun 27 '13 at 17:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I actually think this is a good supplement to the general "primarily opinion-based" option. There are opinion-based questions where all (or many) answers would be valid, and then there are the type of questions that I've been seeing a lot recently that rely on incorrect (and often offensive) premises. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jun 27 '13 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ I've now posted an comment on the need for this close reason in the SE meta discussion. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jun 28 '13 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ Update: Reposted as question to stir more discussion. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jul 3 '13 at 19:54

Homework questions are off-topic on Biology unless you have shown your attempt at an answer. For more information, see our homework policy.


Shopping questions... "Where can I buy X cheaply?" or "Where can I buy a good model of X?" are not biological in nature, and are thus off-topic. For more details, please see this Biology meta answer and this blog post by Jeff Atwood.


The following was pre-written by the Community Team as a 'best guess' about what our options should be. Do we think it's appropriate/well worded?

General chemistry questions are off-topic here, but can be asked on Chemistry Stack Exchange.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but you could also extend that to mathematics and physics, and perhaps link to the appropriate sites? $\endgroup$ – blep Jun 25 '13 at 23:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I can't vote this down as I am the author, however I'm against this one as in cases where a question would be decent quality it could be achieved by migration - and as @dd3 says it's not always going to be for chemistry.se $\endgroup$ – Rory M Jun 27 '13 at 11:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am confused about migration - the policy seems inconsistent. For example, I fully expected this question to be migrated but it was closed instead. It is a well-formulated question and was an integral part of my biological dynamics course... Perhaps this is another discussion? $\endgroup$ – blep Jun 27 '13 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ Agree that migration is a better option, and a clear policy on this would be a good idea. In my mind, basically all well formed off-topic questions that could be on-topic on another SE site should be migrated to get a second shot. $\endgroup$ – fileunderwater Jun 27 '13 at 18:07

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