When I first joined this site, we didn't require prior research in questions. It was more fun. It felt inviting (ugh!) and encouraging of learning about the magnificence that is Biology.

Sometime during my absence, it became the norm to require prior research. Fine. It's the norm on many of the sites. So I don't answer those questions, but in comments try to encourage the user on how to look for some background. (This has often been perceived as me showing off or being coy instead of just answering. It's not. I'd much rather just answer the question; it's more direct and more fun.)

Recently, though, I've seen a number of questions without prior research (I'm excluding identification questions) answered by moderators. This, to me, sends mixed messages, as mods are expected - for better or for worse - to uphold the standards of the site and set examples. Sometimes, the questions are explicit enough that it's obvious someone has done some background research required. Sometimes, it's not, and it appears just to be in someone's field of interest/enthusiasm, so the question gets answered. I understand the why but not the why, since it doesn't meet requirements for prior research?

I don't like lazy questions (e.g. actual homework/assignments). I don't enjoy the evangelizing questions ("Prove evolution when..."), or the sociopolitical ones ("When does life begin [in a...]"). I'm happy to close these.

I like to teach. In my career, I had a predisposition to teach. Teaching patients is more helpful than simply telling them what to take or what to do (though I don't believe or support the ideals of the early model HMO.) So, when I see an answer from a mod when there's no obvious reason to answer except to impart knowledge, I wonder if I'm not supposed to answer questions without evidence of research.

I realize this is more gray than black and white, but I would still really appreciate some clarification.

Should we, on principle, only answer questions with evidence of prior research? Or is it, "Only if you feel like it."

In case it's not clear, I like the optional "only if you feel like it". And I have answered some questions without evidence or prior research, usually for reasons of sympathy/empathy.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Excellent point, I may have crossed the line on multiple occasions because the Q was in my research area. I plead guilty. I find it very hard to endorse the 'prior research', although often it's a good motivation to nudge OP to clarify the question, because prior research helps to specify/clarify a Q. But I have noticed myself I'm not always consistent, and so are others. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Feb 23 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD This is well written and I can fully support this. $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Feb 23 at 17:23
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    $\begingroup$ I notice that along the way, I have used the necessity for prior research effort more and more as a nudge to clarify and focus the Q. We could loosen the strict necessity for prior research effort and only close Qs when they are blatant 'gimme-the-code-like' questions', i.e., 'homework'. This underscores the importance of homework topic we still need to address, as the definition of 'homework' Qs borders the current issue. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD Mod
    Feb 25 at 12:39
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    $\begingroup$ @AliceD - Agreed. How would we close the evangelizing and sociopolitical posts? I use lack of research for these, too. $\endgroup$ Feb 25 at 17:12
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    $\begingroup$ Looks like discussion on this kind of petered out. I would be interested in having a discussion about when and when not to use the homework/research needed close option. I don't have any references offhand, but I've noticed some questions where the OP at least knows something about the subject, indicating some level of research or prior knowledge, yet there are HW/RN close votes, possibly because the questions are fairly basic and could be answered with a bit of pointed googling. Is that a valid reason - we're not going to answer because you should know the answer already? $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Mar 8 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo - I think we are too strict except when we're not (at least one mod continues to answer basic questions which don't show any evidence of even familiarity) and it's just confusing to me. And if I'm confused, there must be others, granted I get confused more easily these days (I sliced an entire banana into a bowl of dog food before realizing my [hilarious!] mistake.) And to your last statement, it seems to be "That's right." $\endgroup$ Mar 20 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ It’s always been arbitrary. $\endgroup$
    – canadianer
    Apr 11 at 13:18


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