I think consensus is that we want StackExchange to be the go-to place for any question anyone may ever have, as long as this question is on-topic for the specific SE domain. People often mention that StackExchange should be the top result in Google for such questions, and that it's okay to ask a question on StackExchange even if that question was already answered elsewhere on the internet.

Meanwhile, we encourage people to vote on questions, partly based on the research effort. If the question clearly lacks research effort (in other words, the answer can be found with a simple Google search), a downvote is warranted.

Isn't this a bit conflicting, though? For instance, I think it is great to have the question How can I prevent SQL injection in PHP? on Stackoverflow. It has over two thousand upvotes, which is great. However, when it was posted (in 2008) there were already numerous good articles about this on the internet, and the question can indicate a lack of research effort. By now, the question (and its answers) are top results in Google whenever you search for remedies against SQL injection.

Am I the only one who thinks that research effort is not a particularly good criterion for upvoting/downvoting a question? As I understand it, we should not tell users to *read the f***ing manual*; we want StackExchange to be the manual.

Can anyone explain me where my logic is wrong?


3 Answers 3


we want StackExchange to be the manual

I don't think so. Duplicating available content is not the goal. Explaining the internals and something which is not clear from the manuals turns a post into a good answer.

Why do we require “research effort”?

Stack Exchange users volunteer their time and put in effort for free for a greater good. Anyone looking for help should be aware of this and reciprocate in time and effort from their end.

Related: Should SO be a repository for documentation? and Duplicating manuals as answers?.

  • Devil's advocate: Doesn't "the greater good" extend beyond the person asking the question? If so, doesn't rejecting a question for insufficient "research effort" hurt that same "greater good"? Dec 10, 2014 at 4:20

I think research effort is a particularly good criterion for upvoting/downvoting a question.

I think we want Stack Exchange to be what you cannot find in the manual (or on the internet), and not to be the manual.


Its called striking a balance. We don't want to waste our time on the same, simple, mundane question over and over again whilst at the same time helping people new to a field get started.

  • 1
    Is this not already part of the "duplicates" mechanism though? There's no loss in answering a simple question once. After that, we can close duplicates on the grounds that they're duplicates -- leaving research (or lack thereof) out of the equation.
    – Lee White
    Nov 27, 2014 at 10:17
  • 2
    @LeeWhite It often takes considerable effort to locate duplicates, and duplicates take up space on the site compounding the problem, so it is better if duplicates do not reach the site.
    – PolyGeo
    Nov 27, 2014 at 10:20
  • That sounds reasonable, but still makes me wonder: what does downvoting achieve that tagging as duplicate does not? I am guessing that you won't downvote a question until you have found proof that the answer already exists somewhere else.
    – Lee White
    Nov 27, 2014 at 10:34
  • 1
    @LeeWhite a question does not have to be a duplicate in order to demonstrate no research effort. There are times when I would downvote and not close as duplicate, and times when I would do the reverse, and times when I would do both. I would not expend effort searching for a duplicate when I see what looks like a hastily penned question with no research effort evident.
    – PolyGeo
    Nov 27, 2014 at 11:19

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