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Note: I was initially planning on posting this on Physics.SE, but it is likely relevent to multiple Stack Exchange Sites. Because of this, I will be using examples relevant to the specific case, which was for physics.


As a college student, my professors (usually math or physics professors) will post practice exams in Blackboard, where the students can post answers in the form of comments. What is frustrating about this setup is the lack of formatting, such as Markdown and LaTex. A typical answer will look something like this (this whole thing is an actual comment copied verbatim):

b) To find the radiative electric field, we must first find the perpendicular acceleration. I subtracted 90 degrees from the given angle to obtain an angle between the acceleration vector and the horizontal axis.
/_ <---- it'll look sort of like that

Generally, I get the sense that many of the practice problems posted, would be considered on topic their various subjects' Stack Exchange sites. Currently, all Stack Exchange sites allow for the ability to ask and answer the same question simultaneously, so obviously as a general rule answering your own question is acceptable and even encouraged. What concerns me though, is that these questions will be written in exactly the same form as they are on the test.

For example, someone might post this:

enter image description here

The reason would be so that those in the class could recognize that it's the same question, and allow it to be linked to in the comments. In theory, the idea would be that the original poster also posts an answer to go along with the question. The point of this would be for someone to answer a class question publicly, allowing them to share the process they used to solve it. This makes it different from the typical "I don't feel like doing my homework, maybe I'll just post it on Stack Exchange" that often seems to occur in questions, because it would require the OP to already know and be willing to write out the answer to a question that they themselves were theoretically too lazy to solve. If the user writes up the answer as well, it ensures that these types of questions can't be used for a "homework service." Additionally, the answer could serve as the "post what you've tried" part of the question.

I downvote lazy homework questions when I see them as well, but this would seem to me to have a far more legitimate purpose.

Is it ok to ask questions this way, in order to post the answer along with it? Should it involve a special tag, something like ? Or is it widely considered frowned upon?

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    Homework policies vary from site to site, you should have posted this to the physics meta. – dmckee May 9 '14 at 1:51
  • @dmckee true, although I have to imagine that on most or all of the relevant child metas this would get an answer much like WendiKidd's. – David Z May 9 '14 at 1:56
  • @DavidZ Sure. If I was asked to guess where you might receive a positive reception for this approach I would suggest asking at Mathematics. – dmckee May 9 '14 at 2:07
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No, homework questions like this are not encouraged. The reason is that SE attempts to solve practical, real-world problems. We want it to be an actual problem you face, and we want you to show us the effort you've put into solving it yourself. From the Tour page:

enter image description here

So questions like these aren't what SE is looking for. It's the difference between this (theoretical):

If 2 parts unobtanium and 5 parts explodium are mixed in a vacuum, what quantifiable reactions will occur? Show your work.

And this (practical):

I'm trying to make a whosywhatsit machine, and I think a combination unobtanium and explodium would work well toward this goal. However the last time I combined explodium with other materials, it blew up. Are there are precautions I should take when mixing the two together? The unobtanium has been stored in an air-tight container for three months, so it should be relatively fresh.

One is about a real problem you face; one is entirely theoretical and not useful.

(Also would definitely be a no-go; it's a meta tag, which we discourage here. Meta tags don't tell anything about what's actually in the question, just about the type of question, which we don't do.)

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    Sounds about right. Especially on Physics, where if someone literally just posted a screenshot of a test question, it would be shot down (heavily downvoted and closed) with extreme prejudice. As dmckee mentioned in a comment on the question, different sites have different policies, but if I understand correctly what the question is about, most of them would basically agree with what you're saying here. – David Z May 9 '14 at 1:54
  • @DavidZ - I edited the question try to explain it a bit better. The idea is that the point of the question itself is only to post the answer along with it. I'm not advocating allowing people to use stack exchange as a homework service. The point of this would be for someone to answer a class question publicly, allowing them to share the process they used to solve it. There would be no point in using this for homework, because it would require the OP to already know and be willing to write out the answer to a question that they themselves were theoretically too lazy to do. – Ephraim May 9 '14 at 2:51
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    @Ephraim based on your updated description this sounds even worse, because not only is the OP posting a no-effort homework question (which counts as such regardless of whether it gets answered) but is also posting a complete answer to it. That undermines our homework policy, and also enables other people in the class who are too lazy to do the problem themselves to copy the posted solution. Remember, we want conceptual questions, not "solve this problem for me" types of questions. – David Z May 9 '14 at 3:24
  • What if they set up a chatroom? Is that inappropriate use of a chatroom? – Justin May 10 '14 at 5:10
  • @Quincunx I don't see a problem with, ex., creating a chatroom on the physics site to discuss physics problems. Chat rules are much more lax as long as the topic applies. – WendiKidd May 10 '14 at 15:43

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