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How should we deal with Google questions?

Fairly often, I come across questions that can literally be answered by typing the key words of the question title into Google and picking any of the first page results. Some examples of what I am talking about:

  • Stupid Sort and its Order: Top two results for "stupid sort order" are the wiki pages for Bogosort and Gnomesort, explaining that they are sometimes called Supid Sort, how they work, and their complexity.
  • Remove array value: Searching for basically any permutation of "PHP remove array value" yields the PHP doc page for unset() as the top result.
  • Breadth First Search and Depth First Search: Top two results for "Breadth First Search and Depth First Search" are the wiki pages for BFS and DFS, complete with explanations, diagrams and sample code.

I always downvote questions like these, since they certainly do not show any research effort, but should this type of question be closed? If so, which close category do they fit into?

Personally, I would answer "Yes" and "I don't know" to these questions, for two reasons:

  1. The answers that get posted are invariably not as good as the ones you get by just searching, or are just links to the relevant pages. So these questions are not really contributing anything worthwhile.
  2. An abundance of "obvious" questions creates noise for people asking/looking for "real" questions.

I have found some related questions and links on Meta, but there doesn't seem to be any clear consensus from what I have read:

  • 2
    I think you missed a question which makes yours a duplicate (or at least it looks like so at a first glance): Should a clear lack of research be grounds for closing a question?
    – Alenanno
    Sep 24, 2012 at 7:14
  • GoogleOverflow...
    – Vi.
    Sep 24, 2012 at 7:22
  • @Alenanno Good find, I didn't see that one. However, the answer to that question is now out of date: it links to the same SE blog post as I have above, which suggests closing these questions as "General Reference". That close reason was never added on SO, and apparently won't be. Sep 24, 2012 at 7:22
  • @verdesmarald Uhm, I'll add my own.
    – Alenanno
    Sep 24, 2012 at 7:24
  • @Alenanno I agree that it is the same question, I just didn't find it while I was looking (finding old questions is hard!). I suppose this question should be closed as a dupe and your answer added to the other question? Sep 24, 2012 at 7:31
  • @verdesmarald Well, the answer is slightly different so I'm not sure. Let's wait for other opinions.
    – Alenanno
    Sep 24, 2012 at 7:38

1 Answer 1


The fact that you can Google the answer is not a reason alone to close it. Certainly, the OP should show that research in the question body and if not, I'd downvote too. But consider this: if the results in Google are not clear or too spread or they otherwise feature some objective difficulty, I wouldn't vote to close.

By the way, I don't think there is a hard rule here. Someone else might vote to close independently from that. And even I wouldn't do the same thing in every occasion, we're not robots. I'd go case by case.

If the option "General Reference" is not there, I think Robert Cartaino once said that you could use Not a real question as a substitute for that, but I don't remember where he posted this answer.

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