Naturally, before I ask a question on a forum or site like Stack Overflow, I'll first search the sites themselves and on Google for the answer.

How long should I do so before I give up and post the question?

I find that there are some questions I can find the answer to online eventually. However, it takes some serious searching, as it's not immediately apparent with the search terms that I thought were obvious, or the site where the answer lies isn't Google-indexed well.

If I give up too early, I'm just being lazy, which is obvious when the answers I get are just links to other sites or blogs which already contain the answer, but didn't show up immediately in my searches.

Whats the (n)etiquette, threshold?


5 Answers 5


Although it would be nice if you looked for the answer yourself for a period before asking the question, there is definitely not any type of prereq. People have a tendency on the sites to say 'you should have googled this' but that is actually frowned upon A LOT on this site and you will tend to get voted down for saying it.

The reason being is that no question is too simple for this website, and the goal of this website is to be the one source for programming answers. In theory the idea is that when you do a google search, StackOverflow is your #1 result.

  • 3
    But is it the intention for this to be the site that answers, "What is C"? I've recently been suggesting that people spend five minutes searching. I don't think that's too much. In the recent cases, I've been suggesting they spend the five minutes searching on SO. That way, they'll find when the same question was asked the day before. I'm not suggesting they do 1/2 hour of research. Just five minutes to spare us the blatant easy-to-find-on-the-first-page-of-search-results questions. Jul 9, 2009 at 3:06
  • I agree with John. A quick Google or even a search on the MSDN can often reveal the answer.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jul 9, 2009 at 8:21
  • not anymore
    – tshepang
    Feb 22, 2011 at 19:59
  • Mouse over the "downvote" icon. It says "no research effort". Jan 25, 2013 at 21:14

You should perform a reasonable search first. Reasonable search would mean try a couple different terms and follow some related article links.

Sometimes you can't find an answer through search because you are coming at the problem from the wrong angle and / or have the wrong search terms. Stackoverflow, or friends, can sort you out about that pretty quickly.

Often I find that as I am going through the process of writing a question I clarify the question. This gives me better ideas about what to search for and end up working it out.

  • +1 for the comment about possibly using the wrong search terms. I think that's the most common reason why I don't find stuff. When posting here you need to be careful tagging your question too - make sure you use, say, the language tags - otherwise it might not get spotted.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Jul 9, 2009 at 8:18

In general, I think performing a reasonable search is the prerequisite. Reasonable can vary depending on your question and your need, but in general, if you haven't performed any reasonable diligence in tracking down the question, you should do that first.


Worst case scenario: you ask a question that's already been asked, but just phrase it differently. People will post links to the other question. In the future, anyone looking for the answer to that question can find multiple questions on the subject, each with different terms to search. It makes the info easier to access. :D


If a quick search (say, one or two pages of google) doesn't turn up the answer then I think it's reasonable to ask on SO. Because SO tends to turn up on the first page, so if you get a good answer, you'll be saving searching time and effort for everyone who follows you.

OTOH, if enteriong your question subject into google verbatim yields an answer on the first page, be prepared for at least some sarcasm ..