I recently pointed a friend in the direction of Stack Overflow as a place she could get answers to her questions. She responded that she'd tried it but that all that happened was that people would throw code at the question without any explanation.

Looking at recent answers to questions, I think she's right. Too many questions are getting answered with a simple block of code without even an attempt at explaining why the code offers works, why it fixes the askers problem or why it's a better solution. This, I think, is a serious barrier to making Stack Overflow as useful as it could be, especially where the question is asked by someone who is clearly still a beginner.

How can we encourage answers that include decent explanation?

  • 2
    Do what I do: comment asking them to expand on their answer. People might forget that what they see as relatively simple a beginner might not recognize.
    – thegrinner
    Jun 17, 2013 at 12:46
  • 1
    "people would throw code at the question without any explanation" then leave a comment to ask people for the explanation. Most users would edit the answer and add relevant explanation. Jun 17, 2013 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


Code-only answers

What you are refering to are code-only answers. They are a known issue on this site because they mostly explain how to do something but not why you should do it or how it works.

What should I do ?

I see them as low quality posts and treat them as so. Simply comment and ask for more information. Most users will edit their posts to add the required information. You could always edit to add more relevant information.

Give it a little bit of time.

A lot of users are trying to be the fastest gun in the west so they answer very fast with very little explanation and end up editing many times afterwards to add more information.

Don't forget !

Some questions can be answered with a bit of code only. It must be self-explanatory enough and from what I've seen around here so far, this is a rare case. Even in those cases, you can ask the answerer for more information.


My most common action in the Very Low Quality review queue is to add a comment saying "This would be a better answer if you explained WHY it works." Having the patience to help answerers give better answers is not for everyone (I can do it only in small doses) but it can have a bigger impact than answering questions yourself.

If you know why it works, you can always comment "is this because [whatever]" and then if the answerer comments "yes" you can edit the explanation into the question with an edit summary of "incorporating explanation from comments" - if that's a suggested edit it should be accepted, and whether suggested or outright, it teaches the answerer where the explanations belong.

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