This site deals about topics that are substantially more subjective than the average Stack Exchange site. And as a result, there is a lot of confusion about the primarily opinion based closed reason.

I'm little worried about this question. I'm quite new to this site and I read that questions that require an opinion-based answers or debatable might not be appropriate. And I think the fact that this is a literature site makes that point quite vague.... Is this question get passed as OK?

Complicated name features in Wuthering Heights

And when we do use the primarily opinion based reason, we need to add a comment explaining our sites stance on subjective questions:

Welcome to Literature! Please can you clarify your question - e.g. what do you mean by "most important"? As it stands, this question is liable to be closed as primarily opinion-based. Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but Stack Exchange generally prefers questions which can be answered with at least some degree of objectivity (facts, references, or specific expertise); the subjectivity of literary analysis is fine, but this smells a bit like a "what's your favourite" type question.

What are the most important passages of Hamlet, and why?

Could we rename this close reason?

  • 1
    I think it's good enough as it is. Notice that it says "primarily opinion-based" - we get some questions that require opinions, but those can be backed by analysis, facts, and other means, which is what the close reason mentions - "facts, references, or specific expertise". I think we can distinguish a purely speculative question from one that requires a analysis-based opinion, but if we can't, we need to have a discussion on that first before changing close reasons. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 20:57

2 Answers 2


I don't think we need to change it.

Let's have a look at the wording of the "primarily opinion-based" close reason, which appears in the close banner on every question put on hold for this reason:

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

That works for the Literature site as well as for any other: a good literary analysis question will generate some degree of opinion, but it can still be answered well using facts, references, or specific expertise - in other words, by explaining why and how and following a "back it up" rule.

It's worth noting that Stack Exchange has over 170 different sites covering a very wide variety of different topics and with a very wide range of different thresholds for allowable levels of subjectivity, and (as far as I know) not a single one has had the "primarily opinion-based" close reason changed. It's true that the subject of this site is inherently more subjective than that of e.g. Mathematics or Stack Overflow or Tex-Latex, but surely not necessarily more so than, say, Parenting or Philosophy.

While the thresholds for how much subjectivity is too much will vary from site to site, the basic principle is always the same: some questions will be too subjective to be answerable in the Stack Exchange framework ("what's your favourite X" would be closed on almost all sites), while some subjective questions will be acceptable and properly answerable by subject experts. The close reason does take account of both of these; all an individual site has to do is decide where to draw that line.


I actually think that the text of the old "Not Constructive" close reason is a better fit for our site.

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or specific expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, see the FAQ for guidance.

We could easily tweak this for our site with some examples of what constitutes valid evidence on our site (e.g. "we expect answers to be supported by quotes, contextualizing information, textual evidence, facts, references, or specific expertise").

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    There's some irony to this, but I actually think you have a point. This wouldn't be a half-bad close reason as is, if that's the direction we wanted to go.
    – user80
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 21:01
  • @Zyerah Yeah, it did seem a little ironic, but it's actually a good fit. I think that this is actually a somewhat better description of what the problem with these questions are in terms of our particular site (the fact that they're just not a great fit for a Q&A format). Plus, if we changed the name of the close reason back to "not constructive," we could avoid getting into the whole "yeah, well aren't most literature questions here somewhat subjective?" argument every time we close a question for that reason. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 21:12
  • If you're feeling up for framing this discussion, I'd love to see a full meta post about it.
    – user80
    Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 22:27
  • In case people come across this post later: the full meta about EJoshuaS's suggestion is here.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 12:35

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