This question was recently closed (partly thanks to my own vote to close it.) While it was closed as being "off topic", I'm not sure that's actually the case. The poster asked about resources for understanding the facade and decorator patterns. While it's not a perfect fit for SO (e.g. there was no actual code) the reason I personally voted to close was my disdain for the complete lack of research effort made. (A simple Google search turns up a ton of resources.)

I know that downvoting is intended to mark questions that show little research effort (as pointed out in this answer) but should be a strong enough reason to close?

I find myself voting to close for this reason relatively frequently, so I suppose my two questions are:

  1. Is this a legitimate reason to vote to close, or should I just be downvoting these questions?
  2. If it is a legitimate reason, can it be added to the list of reasons for closure? I don't think it fits comfortably in any of the current reasons.
  • I was half-wondering if you did any research before asking this question, until I noticed your link to another meta question! Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 23:26
  • 2
    That question deserves to be closed for more reasons than "lack of research". Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 8:10

1 Answer 1


"General reference" is a valid reason to close. Historically I've used "Not a real question" for these questions, but it looks like it's becoming a separate official reason — it's present on Literature, for example, with this description:

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

Edit: Note the caveats in the comments! On SO something should really be dead simple like "How do I add 3 and 4 in C++?" to close for this reason. I think the intention is that "General reference" is for things everyone should know, like how to add, rather than things that are in language standards and easily-searched references like cplusplus.com.

It's impossible to miss instructions on addition if you Google. On the other hand, operator precedence (for example) is only slightly harder to find but more difficult to understand (especially since languages differ significantly on it). You'd be better off providing a great answer that references the standard and explains it than telling them to get lost and use Google.

Check out the flow chart:


  • 6
    There is a feature request for introducing "General Reference" on SO proper: Introduce a "general reference" close reason
    – Pekka
    Commented Aug 17, 2011 at 20:46
  • 5
    @eat Joel is very strongly against that, so you need to make a case for it. The potential for abuse is definitely strong in this one, particularly with OCD addled programmers.. Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 2:13
  • 4
    I'm with Joel on this one. There is no such thing as a "general reference" programming question. Always assume that the asker has already read the documentation, but didn't understand it. They need an explanation of what it says and what it means and how to apply it to their situation. Short, reference-style answers are perfectly acceptable in these cases. It's just important that we get the content available on SO. There's no guarantee the "official documentation" won't 404 in a few months. Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 8:12
  • Thanks @Cody and Jeff, I've added that to the answer.
    – user154510
    Commented Aug 18, 2011 at 15:53
  • note: it is not trivial to add two ints in c++ if you take into account a possible integer overflow (UB) and the consequences on the surrounding code. People even write papers about it!!!
    – jfs
    Commented Jan 11, 2015 at 15:10
  • @MatthewRead: you are not kidding when you say "dead simple". The funny thing is that I can't say that I hadn't seen such simple questions.
    – jfs
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 15:59
  • @J.F.Sebastian I think that's exactly why the "General Reference" close reason has been removed from most (all?) of the sites it was tested on. You might still encounter some questions nearly as simple as What is 3+4?, but they tend to get massively downvoted and buried. I don't personally see the point in having a class of questions that is punished and ignored when we could simply close them, which is why I still support this close reason myself, but it's definitely not a large issue.
    – user154510
    Commented Jan 12, 2015 at 16:02
  • Both GR and NARQ are ancient history at this point, and this answer is no longer at all useful IMO
    – Air
    Commented Jan 29, 2016 at 19:51

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