One of the 7 essential meta question of every beta is the question what the FAQ should contain.

We should clearly, but succinctly define which questions are on-topic here and which questions would be off-topic. We obviously haven't settled those questions really right now, but we should be able to come up with some first draft of our FAQ.

We have a default FAQ with the desciption pulled from the Area 51 proposal right now. The part of the FAQ we can change is only the first section "What kind of questions can I ask here?", this part right now only contains

What kind of questions can I ask here?

Biology - Stack Exchange is for active researchers, academics, and students.

What should our FAQ contain?

  • $\begingroup$ We can now start to put our FAQ into place, so I'd encourage everyone to edit and comment on the answer below =) $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Jan 23, 2012 at 14:22

2 Answers 2


What kind of questions can I ask here?

What is on topic?

Generally, most questions relating to the field of biology are acceptable. Here are some further pointers:

  • Medical questions are acceptable providing that they are only discussing the biological effects of the condition or treatment. Medical questions should be "how does this work" rather than "what should I do". [source]
  • Questions about bioinformatics and closely related subjects are accepted as long as they are addressing the biological aspect of the subject. [source]

What not to ask:

  • Questions on morality and ethics
  • Questions of a personal nature

Please see these tips on writing a good question before posting.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ We can only edit the first section of the FAQ "What kind of Questions can I ask here?", the rest of the FAQ is static. The parts about what is on-topic/off-topic in your list is a good start, the other topics are pretty much already in the FAQ $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2011 at 9:34
  • $\begingroup$ @MadScientist - Ah, ok. I'll remove those parts and leave the "what can be asked". $\endgroup$
    – Polynomial
    Dec 22, 2011 at 9:35
  • $\begingroup$ I clarified the question , I forgot that most people aren't familiar with how the FAQ stuff works on a new site. $\endgroup$ Dec 22, 2011 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ "Appropriate tags must be used. If a user is not sure what tags to use, they should ask on meta." -- wouldn't it be easier to just ask the question, and let someone (who also can create tags) retag it? $\endgroup$
    – user24
    Dec 22, 2011 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ @TimN - I agree with you. I actually meant that we should discourage wildly inappropriate tag usage. $\endgroup$
    – Polynomial
    Dec 22, 2011 at 11:42
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    $\begingroup$ One thing worth adding would be a clause to tag homework questions as such. $\endgroup$
    – GWW
    Dec 29, 2011 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ I propose to add "This would include using bioinformatics tools and understanding the principles behind those tools." from meta.biology.stackexchange.com/questions/19/… to the bioinformatics section. $\endgroup$ Jan 23, 2012 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ We should really get this on the FAQ page, at least as an interim solution until there are more votes. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2012 at 10:24
  • $\begingroup$ n.b I assume that the [sources] will be stripped out in the live version $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Feb 14, 2012 at 12:45

I've tried to formulate a draft we could use for our FAQ, I used the already existing FAQs on Physics and Math, as well as the other post on this question as inspiration.

What kind of questions can I ask here?

Biology - Stack Exchange is for people studying biology at any level. Questions are from students, academics and active researchers in biology and closely related fields, including:

  • general questions about biological concepts
  • questions about the biological mechanisms behind medical conditions
  • questions about techniques in a biological or biochemical laboratory

Questions on interdisciplinary subjects like bioinformatics are also welcome, as long as they focus on the biological part of the subject.

What questions are off-topic?

  • personal medical questions
  • philosophical or ethical questions related to biology

Please see these tips on writing a good question before posting.

The FAQ should be reasonably short, it should only cover the most important aspects that are unique to our site. A lot of general rules are already in the other sections of the FAQ, this part is mainly for giving new users a broad overview on what is on-topic and what off-topic on our site.

Feel free to propose additions or changes to this draft.

  • $\begingroup$ Although this version is shorter and possibly more succinct, I think the other answer is more inviting to read. Breaking the advice down into subheadings promotes readability. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2012 at 10:19
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    $\begingroup$ Looking at the Physics and Math FAQs, I wouldn't read those as a new user. I think that's partly to do with the site design making the text too dense, which is off-putting. $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2012 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ @RichardSmith I changed it a bit to break it into sections, $\endgroup$ Feb 14, 2012 at 10:57
  • $\begingroup$ I now propose we merge the best parts of the two answers, basically keeping your answer, but adding the link to tips on asking a good question, and changing 'general questions about biological concepts' to 'questions about biological concepts' (as people can ask specific questions too) $\endgroup$ Feb 15, 2012 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ @RichardSmith sounds good $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Feb 15, 2012 at 17:18
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe a bullet point about programming questions? meta.biology.stackexchange.com/a/20/576 $\endgroup$ Apr 19, 2013 at 2:31

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