The tooltip for downvotes says "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful." That being said, what constitutes adequate research effort? For that matter, what do we even mean by "research" in the first place? What kinds of things are users expected to do to research their topics?

"Could have found this in 30 seconds on Google" would clearly be an example of inadequate research effort. Apart from that obvious case, what are some examples of "this question does not show any research effort"? Under what circumstances does this apply?

  • See literature.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/116/…. I do think it's worth revisiting the issue however.
    – user111
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 18:52
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    I think this is an important question to ask in general, and I'm glad that you did. However, at this point, I wonder if it might be more useful to discuss specific examples. Were there questions you've seen that prompted this question, or has it just been on your mind as of late?
    – user80
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 18:53
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    'could have found in 30 seconds on Google' - I would say that there's room for disagreement there. We want to be the top Google result, so it's hard to do that if we downvote all questions that could be answered already on Google.
    – Mithical Mod
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 18:54
  • @Zyera It's been on my mind more lately (partially due to recent discussions of valid downvote reasons as well as your recent Meta post). Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 18:55
  • @Mithrandir You bring up a good point, actually - I think that it's very beneficial to the site to be a "go-to source" for literature information. Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 18:57
  • Hmm. It's going to be tricky to see how an answer in abstract applies to questions on the site. I'd recommend that answerers, then, should probably find concrete example questions to talk about, rather than reply in abstract.
    – user80
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 19:00
  • Just a suggestion - it might not be a good idea to accept an answer so quickly, especially on a meta discussion like this where a lot of different people may have different thoughts and views. Maybe give more people time to consider and post answers rather than just accepting the first one within a few hours, even if it does come from a mod?
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 0:08
  • @Randal'Thor Good point - it would definitely be good to get a few answers to the question. Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 0:10
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    I would like to again point out that while it is totally within your rights as a voter to silently downvote, it isn't very helpful, especially on questions and answers like these. Some elaboration would be greatly appreciated.
    – user80
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 15:29
  • I agree with @Zyera Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 15:32

1 Answer 1


My views on this have evolved since the beginning of the private beta. But I've come to the conclusion that questions shouldn't be downvoted due to a lack of research. Here's why.

There are a lot of questions that can be answered through a quick Google search. For example, I'm sure that a quick Google search would be enough to find an answer to the question "Why was Bob Dylan awarded the Nobel prize?"

However, just because other people have written about something doesn't mean that we shouldn't write about it as well. "Why was Bob Dylan awarded the Nobel prize?" is an extremely interesting question, and it would be a pity if people couldn't ask and answer that question on this site just because other people have answered it elsewhere.

And of course, this site gets most of its traffic from search engines. If you can't ask questions that other people are Googling, then you're going to miss out on a huge chunk of traffic.

I find that research is usually a shorthand for "effort", e.g. spend some time trying to figure out something before you come to us. But I get the sense that this is just effort for effort's sake, rather than effort that leads to improvements in a question. We want people to ask interesting questions such "Why was Bob Dylan awarded the Nobel prize?"--downvoting these questions means that they won't be asked and that we won't have a chance to answer them.

I think there are far better standards that can be used as markers of question quality. (I'm happy to discuss these in chat or a separate meta post. Of course, I've found myself downvoting less and less questions on the site as I slowly learn what types of questions are interesting/lead to good answers. It turns out that most questions are interesting and lead to good answers.)

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    I wholly support this answer. Too often, we obsess over the form of question-asking rather than the content. Not all questions need spectacular quantities of research effort - most don't. And often, if a question seems shallower, it's likely because the asker doesn't know how to do that kind of research in this area - which is exactly the sort of benefit a thorough answer can provide.
    – user80
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 19:22

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