It seems like a lot of other sites on the Stack Exchange network tend to discourage (or outright ban) requests for off-site resources (tutorial or book recommendations, etc.).

I didn't see anything about that in this site's help center. Are resource requests allowed? If so, what are the guidelines for what constitutes a "good" resource request and what constitutes a "bad" one?

I assume that "can anyone give me a list of x..." and purely subjective questions (which translation of x is the best?) are off-topic; beyond that, what are the guidelines?

  • 2
    To be quite honest, I'm actually not sure such a question has been asked yet, and for good reason - they're awfully difficult to do well. If you think you can pull it off, I'd encourage you to do so, even if it's going to accrue downvotes.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 4:37
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    Reading recommendation questions are firmly off-topic. meta.literature.stackexchange.com/q/2/111
    – user111
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 5:09
  • Oh, right. Derp.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 5:15
  • @Hamlet I agree with the answer given on the linked question - the kind of question the OP there's asking about ("what's a good Jane Austin novel to read next?" kind of question) is primarily opinion-based, which just isn't a good fit for the Stack Exchange format. (My understanding is that that kind of question is off-topic everywhere on the Stack Exchange network). Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 5:18
  • @Hamlet I was referring more to resource requests that can be answered in a more concrete way - see this question, for example. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 5:20
  • If you think you can pull this off, you can start a thread here on meta, along the lines of Here are some recommendation websites, if you want them. Anime and Manga did this thing, and it's pretty good. Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 16:06
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    @EJoshuaS I don't think these questions need to be phrased as recommendation questions. You could just ask a question about a work of literature, and then say "what is the scholarly consensus on this" if you want works that reference academia.
    – user111
    Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 17:11
  • @Hamlet That's true. I think that questions asking for specific studies or data or something like that (like the question I linked to on Biology SE) are on topic because the usual reasons for closing resource questions don't apply (it's not opinion-based and doesn't tend to attract opinionated answers or spam). Commented Feb 25, 2017 at 18:21
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    This help centre page and the links therefrom might be useful to consider. (I'll try to write up an answer here based on that, if I can find the time.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Mar 23, 2017 at 1:02

2 Answers 2


I'll take a stab at this based on the comments.

"Bad" resource requests tend to be excessively subjective. See, for example, this question, which gives some examples of purely opinion-based resource requests ("if I like Jane Austen, who else might I like?"). Purely opinion-based questions are off topic everywhere on the Stack Exchange network.

Most importantly, Stack Exchange strives to be a repository of knowledge (not just a forum for discussion or sharing opinions), so good answers should include specific factual or textual evidence. Good questions should be able to be answered in a way that can be factually justified (rather than just soliciting opinions). They should also be useful for future readers.

For example, this question on Biology SE is an acceptable resource request because it can be answered in a factual way and is potentially useful for future readers.

"Bad" resource requests tend to attract opinionated answers and spam, and answers can't necessarily be justified in a factual way. Resource requests that are highly localized to your specific situation are also off-topic because they're not likely to be useful to other readers.

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    Is the resource request on biology an acceptable question for this site? I don't know; biology and literature have very different standards. There's only one way to tell: ask a question and see what the response is. We can't tell what the consensus is unless we see whether these questions get closed or are left open.
    – user111
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 5:11
  • But I would avoid asking resource request questions if there is a way to get the same answers without asking a resource request question. Asking "what is the current scholarly consensus on x" or "here's a question about literature, by the way I only want answers that cite scholarly sources" seems like a better way to go about this.
    – user111
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 5:13

The thing about resource requests is that 90% of the time, they can be rewritten into more interesting, non-resource-request questions.

Compare the questions "What are some good sources for understanding Calvino's Invisible Cities?" and "what is the significance of Invisible Cities' chapter structure?"

The first question will result in a list of books and links. Reading answers to the first question won't tell me anything about Invisible Cities: I need to go off the site and look at those sources.

However, answers to the second question will explain things about Invisible Cities. Good answers will also cite sources about Invisible Cities. The second question is a win-win: the OP gets sources, and we get to read interesting answers about an interesting book.

I don't really have a position on whether resource request questions should be closed or left open. But I think 90% of the time resource request questions can be improved by rewriting them to be non-resource-request questions. So therefore, at the very least, I would encourage community members to only ask resource request questions when they are truly necessary.

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