From previous discussions, and from entries in our help section we now increasingly close questions that do not show enough research effort.

This leads to confusion and frustration of new users who posted a question on an expression they were unable to understand, even after they had consulted a dictionary or other ressources.

What is "enough"? What would be the minimum accepted research effort to not close a question as off topic?

4 Answers 4


There is little debate as to close question that do not show any research effort.

We should however be not too picky on this. If a user consulted one or more dictionaries but still was unable to understand a word or an expression it may be sufficent if they told us so, or gave us an example why their dictionary confused them.

Some rare words may not be listed in many dictionaries. We should not expect a user to consult all of them before asking. Our favorite dictionary may list the word in question, but this dictionary may not be available to the poster. In case they are not natives, it may be that a German-only dictionary is too hard to use for them (think e.g. of Duden or Grimm's). It should be alright if a user then said they had not found this expression at all (what more research could we possibly want them to perform in addition?).

Being unsuccessful on an own research is one good reason for asking here. We should not reject such question but help people by giving them

  • a good answer (even if we had found it very easily) with a better explanation than a dictionary entry.
  • a guide to how and where to search successfully.

I agree in the biggest part with @Takkat, but I would like to add one point.

On questions about "differences" / "nuances" and "understanding" it would be nice to see the actual dictionary entry that the user found. This is helpful in two ways:

  1. It allows me, as answerer, to better understand what exactly OP knows so I can pick him up at his pace effectively.
  2. It's an inbuilt "protection" against people who just write: "I checked a dictionary, but i couldn't find anything."

What I would consider "minimum" research effort is the following:

  1. The person has consulted at least ONE source, either a dictionary, a human source, or possibly even Google translate.
  2. Provides a "best guess" based on his or her research.
  3. States any reservations or qualifications he or she has about the "best guess," or a claim that the source did not provide material for a "best guess."

Even better would be if the OP provided a context for the question, so we can define "meaning in context" as well as "normal" meaning.


I do not see any harm in pointing to the most common German dictionary, which is available online, and then closing the question. If the user feels that the dictionary entry does not answer their question, then they can modify it to ask a more meaningful question.

I would not point a beginner of German to Grimm's, on the other hand. I myself sometimes have to read the entries very carefully to understand them.

I want to also point out a recent case of someone asking a question, whose only problem was that he had not used the right dictionary. Pointed to a dictionary entry he was completely happy. However, then someone else complained that an answer only consisted of what might be a dictionary entry and that therefore the answer was not deserving of an up vote. This points out a problem with questions of this kind.

  • 6
    The harm is irreversibly done after a user doesn't come back. It may be not so easy for a non-native German to read and judge dictionary entries - then they may come here for help. We should welcome this.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 22:10

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