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My understanding has been that off-site research to find answers to a question before posting is generally not required to ask a question on a Stack Exchange site. Searching for duplicate questions within the network site one wants to ask on is expected, but not doing research off-site (at least- not in general across all network sites). This seems to be represented in FAQs like Embrace the non-Googlers, How should we deal with Google questions?

Are there any sites where an expectation for off-site research is

  • culturally custom, but not as a written guideline or rule?
  • a written guideline/recommendation according to meta discussion?
  • a written rule according to meta discussion?

And if so, for what kinds of questions on those sites are such expectations held, and why? If you can link to related meta discussion, that would be helpful.

My motivation for this question is similar to my motivation for asking Is there stigma associated with self-answers on certain network sites? Or different etiquette? If so, why? - I want to get a birds-eye view of expectations across various network sites on a specific issue to be prepared for what will be expected of me if I want to ask questions there.

I plan to follow up on this with a separate question on what general principles are useful for deciding when (if ever) a site should expect research off-site research, and for what types of questions.

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    Useful offsite research 😁 Jul 21, 2023 at 5:45
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    Given the timing, I assume you are thinking about someone very specific. In that case imho users aren't mad because of the self answering. They are mad because the user is constantly posting self answered question that have little to no interest and can be easily solved by a Google search....
    – SPArcheon
    Jul 21, 2023 at 10:30
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    Basically: it depends on how much the user looks like they are gaming the system. One question every 6-8 time units? No problem. But I suppose no one would like it if I started posting self answered question like "Is [pokemon] available in Pokemon Scarlet", "Can you be left handed in Pokemon Scarlet", "How many ending has Pokemon Scarlet", "How many save slot does Pokemon Scarlet have", "Can you change your gender later in Pokemon Scarlet" etc. all the same day
    – SPArcheon
    Jul 21, 2023 at 10:33
  • @SPArcheon what does routine-self-answering have to do with this question? Jul 21, 2023 at 18:07
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    Missing research is a downvote reason. Until now I never really thought about what kind of research is meant there. Jul 22, 2023 at 21:13
  • @starball like I said, considering the timing of this question I assumed you were talking about a specific conflict between users that happened recently that involved serial posting of self answered questions that could be solved by a simple Google search
    – SPArcheon
    Jul 24, 2023 at 7:50

5 Answers 5

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On Stack Overflow, we are encouraged to embrace the Googlers, and be happy if the question is the number one result for a search. The asker is under no obligation to have Googled their error message before coming and asking. They are of course under an obligation to tell us their error message, and other information that may end up relevant, as the other answers already explain.

But Stack Exchange is more than just Stack Overflow. On Medical Sciences, you can't ask any kind of question that pops into your head, even if it's a real problem you face. No question can ask for a diagnosis (what is this funny spot on my toe?) or medical advice, for you or anyone else, and there is an expectation of research before asking. This isn't on the "how to ask" page, because the level of per-site customization to support that wasn't coded, but it's a policy the moderators enforce. Here's a meta question about it. (As always when this comes up, Carey Gregory, the moderator on Medical Sciences, is not related to me and we don't particularly interact.) The moderators also expect links in answers and can and do delete answers that are not backed up with citations.

History also has research requirements for both questions and answers, as does Skeptics, where questions must be about a "notable claim" not just something your cousin's neighbour told you.

These are the firmest and most-enforced "research before you ask" policies I've met. Several sites have a "back it up" policy for answers, requiring either citations or an assertion that you have personal experience with the situation. Two that come to mind are Interpersonal Skills and Parenting.

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  • nice. TL;DRs about the rationales would improve this answer. Jul 21, 2023 at 18:10
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    I don't know the rationales beyond what we can all read in the meta questions; I'm not part of the meta communities of those sites. Perhaps some others will provide them. Jul 21, 2023 at 20:49
  • "This isn't on the "how to ask" page, because the level of per-site customization to support that wasn't coded, but it's a policy the moderators enforce." - Technically, the CMs could customize this (and any other) Help Center page on a per-site basis; it'd just then prevent any updates to the network-wide version from being applied to the site it's been customized on. It's not a code issue, just a matter of the CMs' approach to creating site-specific overrides of Help Center pages (we rarely did so when I was a CM).
    – V2Blast
    Nov 7, 2023 at 3:23
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If you want a good answer, it's best to explain why "doing the obvious thing" doesn't work.

A question at Chinese.SE might ask:

What does 你会说汉语吗 mean?

and an answer would be:

I put this into Google Translate and it said: Do you speak Chinese?

The OP might comment on this answer with "well, I could have done that...".

You see, if the OP doesn't do the obvious thing, then the answers are going to do the obvious thing. Such questions don't help the OP. Such questions don't help the site.

Now imagine the above question, but scaled to any conceivable sentence in Chinese. As such, there's a close reason at Chinese.SE:

Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not provide a bulk translation service.

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    makes sense for that context. "obvious thing" can vary with expertise though. In the questions I answer on Stack Overflow, what's obvious to me that someone should do to figure out the answer themselves is clearly not obvious to the people asking. Jul 22, 2023 at 2:08
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    Japanese Language has the same policy for the same reason. Jul 22, 2023 at 4:59
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    English Language & Usage has the (custom) close reason (my emphasis): "Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic." Jul 22, 2023 at 7:46
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    Spanish Language has a similar close reason "Questions that show no effort are off-topic: translations & definitions easily found online; corrections (homework) posts with no clear question. Tell us what you do understand and we will help you with what you don't. " (I have deleted the Spanish version which follows.)
    – mdewey
    Jul 22, 2023 at 13:27
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While the language reflects the culture it was written for, I think ESR's asking questions the smart way describes it as

When you ask your question, display the fact that you have done these things first; this will help establish that you're not being a lazy sponge and wasting people's time. Better yet, display what you have learned from doing these things. We like answering questions for people who have demonstrated they can learn from the answers.

More precisely - it shows you've put in effort into solving the problem, shared your findings, and importantly saves folks who read your question time since they don't need to retread your steps and can see where you've gone wrong.

I'd rather put it less as offsite research, but rather laying the groundwork for someone else to understand a problem without access to it

It’s worth considering culture - and the balance between the needs of 'those skilled in the arts', 'petty dabblers' like myself and a random person who's just completely confused by an issue and doesn't know where to start.

It’s less about 'offsite research' and more about 'making the effort to help others help you', IMO.

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My feeling is that quick (not exhaustive) off-site research to find answers to a question before posting should be performed prior to asking a question on a Stack Exchange site.

Without that I think the Stack Exchange sites will have many questions posted that can be readily answered elsewhere on the web.

To find out whether a site strongly encourages or requires off-site research, and for what types of questions, I recommend visiting the site, its tour, help center and per-site Meta, rather than relying on a list compiled on this site that can become outdated.

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    how do you reconcile that understanding with Embrace the non-Googlers and How should we deal with Google questions?? Jul 21, 2023 at 7:19
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    @starball I think those Q&As are as much or more about "copy/pasting embarrassing links to lmgtfy.com (or similar responses in comments, which aren't downvotable) in an attempt to belittle the questions' authors". In any event, I've revised my answer because I'd forgotten about them and overlooked them in your question.
    – PolyGeo
    Jul 21, 2023 at 7:34
  • But surely posting on SE is research.
    – Chenmunka
    Jul 21, 2023 at 7:44
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    @Chenmunka I think posting on SE is research subsequent to a quick web review akin to but not exhaustive like a literature review prior to scientific research.
    – PolyGeo
    Jul 21, 2023 at 7:50
  • @Chenmunka Please elaborate.
    – user1359324
    Jul 21, 2023 at 9:07
  • SE should not be the last resort when trying to solve a problem when all other avenues have failed. SE should be the first port of call. Forcing users to do spurious searches elsewhere devalues SE as a whole and reduces its effectiveness as a repository of information.
    – Chenmunka
    Jul 21, 2023 at 17:59
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    @Chenmunka Thank you. I agree with the first statement but not with the second and third understanding that you are referring to post a question. However a SO / SE / SE Meta chatroom might be the "first port of call".
    – user1359324
    Jul 21, 2023 at 19:49
  • (cont.) Depending on each user's circumstances, they might have to look for other options, like creating a digital garden / blog or a specific community where such questions are allowed. Regarding communities, in some circumstances, it might be required to look for a non-SE community as the "first port of call"
    – user1359324
    Jul 21, 2023 at 19:56
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This answer is in progress. There's a lot of meta discussion to read. You're welcome to help out.

Content can be found from:

Entries are sorted on a semi-best-effort-basis by site total number of questions

Sites that have such requirements/expectations

Sites that potentially have such requirements/expectations

Sites that do not* have such requirements*

*(If I'm understanding the meta discussion right, and at least as far as close votes go and not downvotes)

Meta discussions about research in general

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    Couldn't this be summarized by "Each stack exchange is a separate community, potentially each having their own guidelines on how much research is needed. check the local meta for the site you're interested in participating in"? Sure, technically you're breaking the sites up into lists based on your own per-site research, but now you're potentially creating a scenario where this answer could easily become out of date or misleading when all one needs to do is research the site they're interested in.
    – Kevin B
    Nov 6, 2023 at 21:18
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    @KevinB it's not like a site will change its policy often, so chances of the answer becoming wrong or out of date are very small. That said, it requires huge efforts to fill it up with all sites, so if anything should be made CW and make it clear others are welcome to add their own findings. Nov 6, 2023 at 21:22

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