Should questions like "what does the author mean by saying XX?" or "what is the significance of YY item in this context" be on-topic?

On one hand, they can facilitate opinion-based discussion (and worse - homework essay questions). On the other hand, there may be well-written essays or even interviews on the matter.

2 Answers 2


Yes, but we should demand quality answers, as well as quality questions.

  • Questions should show work done, otherwise be downvoted as "not sufficient research".

    If too many crappy homework questions get posted, we should institute formal moderation policies, similar to quality controls required for questions like ID on MTV, or Software Rec in general, or Skeptics notability.

  • Answers should be actual analysis, instead of random guesses.

    At first, we rely on downvotes.

    If crap persists, we have formal moderation policies, akin to Skeptics.


I'm in favor of making them on-topic. But, with a few restrictions.

  • The rule for homework questions on SE has always been - it's OK to ask for help with your homework, but show that you tried it yourself.

  • Answers should not be personal opinion, but the position of acknowledged literary critics. "I think it's because X" is opinion. "Famous literature professor Y said, in his publication ...., that X" is a fact.

  • Alternatively, the answer should logically follow from a textual analysis.

I'm not against adding a personal view on these things, if it can be supported by a reasonable analysis. But only after the "official" views by authorities in the field have been pointed out.

  • 6
    I'm not keen on the idea of limiting this to acknowledged critics; as long as an analysis is supported by some sort of textual evidence, the point should be valid regardless of whether someone famous thinks it or if it's just the interpretation of the post's author.
    – Aurora0001
    Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 19:24
  • 1
    @Aurora0001 Good point. Real-world fame should not be the only criterion; actual evidence from the text (or author's autobiographies, or similar sources) should also suffice. Commented Jan 18, 2017 at 19:27
  • 3
    I'm pretty sure the "rule for homework questions on SE" varies a LOT between different sites.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 12:08
  • 4
    Personally, I would be happier to see an answer which logically follows from a textual analysis than one which simply quotes a famous literature professor. But +1 to this anyway.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 12:40

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