One of the comments on my question Is the impenetrability of Chapter 14 of Ulysses deliberate, or a consequence of its stylistic pastiches? gently chided me for not showing the research effort I'd put into answering the question myself.

This seems an interesting issue to me. As a StackOverflow user, I'm aware that on that site, showing your own attempts to answer a question is seen as important. And rightly so: there's an overwhelming volume of posts on that site, many of them of very poor quality. Asking for basic research before posting is a sensible way to combat the problem.

It's not something, as far as I'm aware, that we've ever touched on here. Certainly, I've answered a number of questions myself which could just have easily been answered by a quick trip to a search engine.

Personally, I'm of the opinion that there's currently no need to set a bar of personal effort before accepting a question.

  • We don't have an issue with post volumes. Indeed, more traffic (and more Q's and A's) are good on a beta site.

  • The somewhat subjective nature of the questions we accept means there is value in someone posting a low-effort question and having someone here collating information from various sources into a single answer.

  • "Lack of research" is, in itself, a more subjective bar here. For programming questions, there's already a wealth of data on the internet. For literature questions, there's less available, and more of it remains in available only via traditional paper publishing. On my question, for example, the commenter felt I perhaps ought to have consulted a physical schema.

Regardless of my personal feelings, this seems an issue worthy of community discussion so that we can set a policy. Your thoughts?

  • 2
    Related: Should we embrace non-Googlers?
    – Mithical Mod
    Commented Apr 9, 2018 at 11:54
  • 4
    There's an added layer of complexity that I think is easy to overlook, but very important. While answers to programming questions can often be answered with a simple Google search, answers to literature questions often (though obviously not always) require sourcing and synthesizing multiple texts.
    – user80
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 21:31

1 Answer 1


Encourage? As much as you can. Require? None.

Until such time as this site starts to get a problem with overly many poorly researched questions, I don't think there's any need to require a minimal level of self-research before asking. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", as they say. Let's instead concentrate on trying to fix things which are, or could be, problems for our site. I'd say the problem with question volume, if there is one at all, is more that we have too few questions than too many. But let me expand on why I don't think this is a problem.

  • Not everyone is equally skilled at researching. What you or I might think of as a trivial question because the answer is so 'easy' (for us) to find, someone else might not be able to figure out for themselves. And that someone else, who isn't greatly skilled at researching questions about literature, is precisely the sort of person for whom this site will be useful - either as an asker themselves or as a passive reader of our questions.

  • Sometimes you learn more from a good answer than you could have from self-research. Take this question of mine, for instance. As the comments show, the short answer to the question can be found on Wikipedia. I almost deleted it after seeing that, but I'm glad I didn't because of the outstanding answer it received - going far above and beyond what was necessary to answer the question. So "it's easy to find the answer from Google" isn't always the end of the story.

In short: people are learning from these questions, and that makes them useful. Even if a question doesn't include the research the OP did to try to answer it, it can still be an interesting question to people who couldn't find the answer themselves, and its answers might teach something even to people who could.

Requiring self-research is a good way to weed out the wheat from the chaff on sites which have too many questions to handle, like Stack Overflow or Maths SE. If you get several hundred questions every day and a goodly number of them are bad enough not to be worth answering, then by all means add extra quality requirements. But our site isn't one of those. It's possible for a single user to see and vote on every question that comes in. Without a "too many bad questions" problem, we don't need a "require self-research before posting" solution.

  • Given that these are also my thoughts on the topic, and that this answer has accrued a number of upvotes, I'm taking this as an agreement that we now have an official little/no-research required policy.
    – Matt Thrower Mod
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 11:18

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