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To make this clear, I’m asking about a question that I would have that has already been answered but is still difficult to understand or confuses me. I have read this on duplicates, but I’m wondering what action I am allowed to take if my question would be a duplicate if I posted it?

The other option I can think of for now is to comment on that already existing question’s answer and ask the user to explain it a different way if possible. Would that be considered an off-topic comment? Or would that be fine? Are there already other ways to get an answer that would be more clear in another person’s (my) opinion?

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    Ask a question on the answer itself and how it relates to your issue and state that you don't understand the answer nor how to manipulate it to your issue, link back to it using the share button on the answer. That is how we do it on TeX.SE and I am assuming it should be fine on other sites. It shows you have researched it, tried to adapt it and couldn't, which should be fine and shows effort on your part.
    – JamesT
    May 31, 2023 at 15:40
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    Thank you very much, I will do it! This is for Stack Overflow, so I'm sure this would work. @JamesT
    – leguchi
    Jun 1, 2023 at 16:05

2 Answers 2

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Since the solution was only posted as a comment, let me reiterate it as an actual answer.

Ask a question about the answer itself and how it relates to your issue, and state that you don't understand the answer or how to adapt it to your circumstances. Link back to the previous answer using the share button on the answer. This shows your research; please explain how you tried to adapt it and why you couldn't, or how the results were not what you wanted or expected.

Example:

I was trying to figure out how to solve a SyntaxError in Python. I found "SyntaxError: Invalid Syntax" when trying to run a .py script from IDLE in Command Prompt but I can't understand how to apply it in my circumstances.

Here is a minimal reproducible example with my input data and my attempt to solve the problem. I removed the Python REPL output and put my script in a file:

import sys

print("Hello world!

but I still get a SyntaxError.

bash$ python /tmp/error.py 
 File "/tmp/error.py", line 3
   print("Hello world!
         ^
SyntaxError: unterminated string literal (detected at line 3)
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Note- just to spell this out so that people don't misunderstand (even though the meta question here is certain that the question is really a duplicate): If your question is about how to do something that isn't part of the question post that the answer is posted to, then you should ask that in a new question post instead (make sure to search to see if that question has been asked before too). That being said...

Option: Comment on that answer asking for clarification

See /help/privileges/comment (yes- it is a privilege, so this option is not available to you if you don't have that privilege yet). It is allowed to comment with constructive criticism, which I think includes pointing out that a part of the question could use further clarification, and asking if such clarification could please be made.

Option: Place a bounty on the existing question

See /help/privileges/set-bounties. If you have the bounty privilege, set a bounty, select the "Improve details" reason, and in the custom message box, explain what details you want to be further clarified.

Option: Wait

Maybe "by chance", someone will just come along and improve the existing answers in a way that fills your knowledge-gap, or write a new answer post that does so. /help/no-one-answers is slightly relevant to this option.

Option: DIY

You can go and try to figure out the answer yourself through other means. Maybe there's a more specific question you can ask that fills that knowledge-gap. Maybe if you do some searching and reading on your own, you can find out the answer on your own. If you succeed, consider suggesting an edit to improve existing answer posts.

Option: Write a new question post

This option doesn't require you to have any more than 1 reputation, and it works great when the knowledge gap you have has a question in its own right (I.e. when it's not actually a duplicate question), but it's not without its flaws- namely that if you're sure it really is a duplicate, in a way, you are prompting for information fragmentation, which is what the duplicate-closure is meant to prevent (see /help/duplicate-questions). I wouldn't be surprised if the question you post gets closed, and if it doesn't get closed, and gets a good answer instead, I think the next step should be that you either edit-suggest the further clarification into the answer post in the dup-target, or write a new and improved answer post to the dup-target question.

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  • If the community is properly on-the-ball, then the "write a new question post" option results in the question being swiftly closed as a duplicate, evaluated on its merits as a signpost, and taken as feedback that the canonical needs a new answer and/or specific elaboration on existing answers. If the community is really on-the-ball, it doesn't actually need the bounty system, for exactly this reason. Jun 2, 2023 at 8:27

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