A lot of times we get questions like - what is a bacteria etc.

Typically "homework" questions that we get are mostly MCQs (because in contemporary schools nobody asks a homework question like - define bacteria).

I voted to close this question titled — "Can someone describe how a biofilm forms?", as homework.

It is broad as well but since a normal wikipedia search would fetch answer to the said question I "classified" it as homework (basically trivial).

Is it right or should I have just downvoted it and voted to close as broad?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think I will start voting to close as off-topic giving the custom reason "This post appears to be off-topic because it does not suit the target audience of this site (biology researchers, academics, and students). While questions are welcome regardless of their difficulty, users should have made some effort to find an answer for themselves by, for example, reading basic biology text books or online material first." $\endgroup$
    – rg255
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 8:21

2 Answers 2


No, don't close them as homework. Here is a similar (not identical) discussion from pets.se:

Should I be creating questions and answers for topics easily found when googled?

In the answer, it was noted that on a site like Stack Overflow, general reference questions are discouraged as general knowledge, but on other sites, it's good to have a basic, detailed, canonical answer to any question that has to do with a basic, widely known topic.

If you answer a general reference question, remember to be detailed and authoritative, better than your average google find on the topic. I brought this up here on pets, when I saw a general reference question, and reminded the user to make it an exceptionally good thread, which I think he did well.

In the case you brought up in your question, That was so low quality it would need a major edit to make it worthwhile to answer without narrowing the scope. I think it should have been closed as 'too broad', or edited into shape. Remember, the hover over the downvote button says,

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

While the question was clear, it showed a lack of research. It could have been useful, if it was written well, and used as an on-site reference on the topic.


I don't think we should do this generally, because some people have only very basic knowledge. Writing an answer on this is not a big deal in my opinion. And especially Wikipedia tends to be overcomplicated on a lot of topics. Good with already existing basic knowledge, but sometimes hard to understand for people without. And it is also the question to decide which question could simply looked up and which not. This answer will obviously be different between an expert in a field and someone who is not.

And yes, I think we should still close obvious (although it would be easy to obscure this) homework questions. I don't see the point doing other peoples homeworks. I also think that people can take a look first. However, the line between both might be a thin one.

  • $\begingroup$ Don't you think that this conflicts with the stated scope of BioSE as a site "for biology researchers, academics, and students"? As it is now, the site is not meant for every possible question that deals with biology. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm. The line is hard to find. $\endgroup$
    – Chris Mod
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ Is the level of biology student specified? Does a high school biology student count? $\endgroup$
    – Resonating
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 21:07

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