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Note: This is partially a follow-up to this Meta post. It is also inspired by http://idownvotedbecau.se/ for Stack Overflow, which features explanations of common downvote reasons and tips on how to improve the questions that were downvoted for this reason.

Please feel free to add additional information to the Community Wiki answers I have already added.

Logistically, it would make sense to create a separate Community Wiki answer for each reason. If you have a reason you commonly downvote posts (either questions or answers) that's not listed here yet, please feel free to add it.

What are some common reasons that people downvote, and why are those considered reasons to downvote? Why was my post downvoted? If my post was downvoted for one of those reasons, what can I do to improve it?

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    Is this about reasons for downvoting answers or reasons for downvoting questions? – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:13
  • @Hamlet My thinking was both, but it may be easier to focus on questions (or to separate them out into separate posts for questions and answers). – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '17 at 18:14
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    I think there are a lot of reasons for downvoting. I don't really think they can all be summed up in a list. I also think people would find more benifit for a guide about how to write a good answer than a guide for why posts are downvoting. – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:21
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    It seems like your intention here is to start a conversation about why people downvote and come to some sort of consensus about what is acceptable to downvote. I do think that is an important conversation to have. But I think that conversation might be better served by talking about specific posts instead of general principles. There are obviously some general principles, but I think there are reasons to downvote that only exist for a very small subset of content. – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:23
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    One question that would be productive to ask is: what kind of research do we want people to do before asking questions? When is it acceptable to downvote questions for lacking research? – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:26
  • @Hamlet I think that it would be very productive to define what's meant by "research effort" on this site. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '17 at 18:27
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    @Hamlet I do agree that we can't possibly come up with a comprehensive list of every way that a question could be poorly formulated. I think that it is possible to come up with common reasons with general advice on how to fix the issue; idownvotedbecau.se (along with the standard close vote reasons) actually covers most of the reasons I downvote on Stack Overflow, for example. In cases where it doesn't, I just write a custom comment. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '17 at 18:30
  • I mean, Stack Overflow has the benifit of being around for years and years and building up community experience about what is good content and what is bad. We're six months old, and as a result haven't really had time to learn together as a community – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:33
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    I don't know, I think it would be a good idea to talk about why people downvote and why people upvote. But the way this question is asked is very broad and doesn't really allow for any sort of useful discussion. If you want to talk about research, then ask a question about research, which would allow people to post answers arguing for and against certain positions. – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:35
  • @Hamlet My intent for this post is more to try to create a reference we can point people to to describe common problems with posts than to come up with a consensus on a specific question (although I think that that would be a good byproduct since I think that we'd benefit from that kind of a consensus). I'll try to create a separate question on defining exactly what we mean by "research" here, though - I think that that would be a very worthwhile discussion. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '17 at 18:40
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:44
  • @Hamlet Chat's blocked by my corporate firewall, unfortunately. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '17 at 18:44
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    Oh, sorry. But the point I'm trying to make is we can't really compile a list of common problems because there's no real consensus about what is a common problem. So you have to get the consensus first, which requires more specific meta posts. And even if there is a consensus, this still requires the understanding that there will be people who downvote for reasons that you consider unproductive, and that there isn't much the community can do about it (bc Stack's voting software/philosophy – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:46
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    I agree with @Hamlet's first comment: reasons for downvoting will be very different for questions and answers, and that should be reflected here. – Rand al'Thor Oct 17 '17 at 23:40
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Since this has popped up again and is relevant, I'll repost something on this I said in another meta thread.

"Don't downvote - and I think this is really important - unless it's clearly a bad question in terms of clarity or lack of effort or misinformation. Absolutely don't downvote or even comment just because you feel a question isn't a good fit for the site. If that concerns you, take to meta and we'll discuss it."

This, of course, turns the question on its head, giving reasons not to downvote, rather than reasons to downvote. I still think it's relevant though: we ought to be approaching both questions and answers from a presumed point of good faith.

I downvote rarely (I think? A mod might correct me!), and when I do it's almost always for one of these reasons:

  • Extreme brevity, especially when it takes the form of what's clearly an opinion with no argument, quote or fact to back it up.

  • Complete lack of research effort.

  • Repeating or paraphrasing what's already been given in another answer. This can be an awkward one due to a phenomenon I've seen here but not on other SE sites, which is people posting an answer which builds on a previous answer. That's fine - in fact, I think we should probably make clear somewhere that it's okay, even to be encouraged.

  • Topics that push the boundaries of what the site's remit should be, especially ones that seem to abuse the difficulty of defining what "literature" actually is. I may use this unfairly: I have strong opinions on this, which seem to differ from much of the community.

Personally, I'm also happier than most with "opinion based" questions, so I tend not to vote those down. This is a more subjective topic than most of SE, after all. And even if it becomes clear a question is overly opinion-based, it's normally generated some interesting discussion or answers before it gets closed.

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Not fact-based

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.

Example of a question that is bad for this reason:

Did Bob Dylan deserve his Nobel Prize?

This question is likely to solicit extended debate rather than fact-based answers.

This can be "converted" to a significantly better question:

Why did the award committee decide to award Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize?

Note that this second question is related to the first question, but it's possible to answer this question by appealing to facts (rather than merely offering personal opinions).

Opinion-based questions can often be edited to become related, fact-based questions (such as the one above).

One test for whether a question is excessively opinion-based is: "What kind of evidence could someone supply for (or against) a particular answer?" If you can't clearly answer that question, the question is probably not fact-based.


Good answers should appeal to specific facts, references, and specific expertise to defend them, not merely cite personal opinions. These facts can include quotes from relevant passages of the work, quotes from the author, facts that provide historical context, etc.

To improve answers that were downvoted for this reason, consider adding relevant quotes or facts that support your opinion.

Also, consider providing credible sources to back up factual claims. Lack of adequate sourcing is a very common reason that people downvote answers.

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    This is a reason to close a question, not downvote a question. We really shouldn't be using downvotes as a substitute for close votes. And if someone's question gets closed, their main priority is usually to get the question reopened; I doubt that someone with a closed question would care about downvotes to that question. – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:15
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    @Hamlet I'm not arguing that downvotes should be a substitute for close votes. I think that questions that deserve to be closed are also usually (but not always) downvote-worthy for being useless, unclear, poorly formulated, or lacking research effort. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '17 at 18:24
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The question does not contain sufficient details to identify an adequate answer

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

Also, since Stack Exchange's primary purpose is to develop a repository of questions and answers that are useful to future readers (not only to the original asker), a primary characteristic of good questions is that they are likely to be searched for by others. Questions that are ambiguous, unclear, or excessively broad don't do that.

Answers to these questions may be downvoted because it's impossible to tell whether it actually fully addresses the asker's problem. By definition, if it's impossible to identify an adequate answer based on the details on the question, answers to these questions are inadequate. Also, How to Answer strongly recommends only answering well-asked questions.

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    Wouldn't that mean that a question is unanswerable? And then this would be a reason to close, not downvote? – user111 Oct 17 '17 at 18:11
  • @Hamlet It would be a reason to vote to close and to downvote. – EJoshuaS - Reinstate Monica Oct 17 '17 at 18:12

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