I ask this question to have a clear consensus about this, stemming from the current opinion of the community (and not something discussed during site planning on Area 51 or alongside another discussion). This should in particular serve to make our closing behaviour more consistent (and finally adapt our custom close reasons) as well as to eliminate confusion (see, e.g., here).

What kinds of question must indicate prior research to be on-topic?

Each answer represents one type of question; votes indicate approval or disapproval as to whether such questions have to indicate prior research.


  • This question is not about the extent to which prior research has to be indicated. (See this question for this.)
  • Extended discussions about whether a type of question has to fulfill this requirement should happen in a separate meta question.
  • While prior research is a general requirement for asking here, this does not have to be indicated for all questions (though it often is a good idea to do so). For the types of questions we are talking about here, there is an automatic burden of proof for the asker (see also here).

Remember that this can only work, if you vote. If you agree with this approch in general, upvote this question; if you disagree, downvote it. If you agree that some types of questions must indicate prior research upvote the respective answers, if you disagree, downvote them.

3 Answers 3


Questions asking for translations or meanings of words, phrases, idioms and similar – in short everything that is conceivable to be contained in a dictionary.


Some questions do indeed leave the impression that the asker had no access to a dictionary. In these cases we should politely ask the OP to give us results of their research to better see where the issues are, and how to help. If these questions could not be answered in a sensible way, we should put them on hold until the OP gives us additional information needed.

But I am all against a fixed rule to give us research efforts in all cases. We should not force users into this. Whenever a question is clear, of general interest, and answerable, it may be a good question for the site even if research effort was not explicitly listed.

If we made it a compulsory prerequisite for asking, we’d also make people believe they must close any question as off topic if there was no mentioning of previous research. We still can close such a question if it was poor otherwise, but we should not close all questions if the only reason was they had not mentioned their dictionary entries.

  • I think we are misunderstanding each other: What is the difference of what you are proposing to dropping the research-effort criterion entirely? Also, if I am not entirely mistaken, previous research is compulsory at least for translation questions now.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Feb 23, 2015 at 20:50
  • 1
    “the asker had no access to a dictionary” – unless you exclude online dictionaries, such a person would be very rare to ask a question here.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Feb 23, 2015 at 21:03
  • @Wrzlprmft it is the impression the post leaves, not the facts. Also, it is a widespread misunderstanding of our FAQ that people believe research effort was compulsory. We say it should be and then we may close a sloppy question for lack of research effort but there is no obligation to do that with all, even less if the question was of general interest. Not all questions need to fulfill all criteria for an epic question to be welcome here.
    – Takkat
    Feb 23, 2015 at 22:55
  • So, if a question is sloppy (and of a certain type), we close it for lack of research effort, but if a question is not sloppy but fails to indicate research effort (if such a question exists at all), we leave it open? This would be inconsistent and leads to all sorts of confusion and people feeling treated unjustly. In this case, I’d rather that we either stop closing sloppy questions altogether or devise an entirely different closing criterion. Finally, all questions for translations of single words and similar are of general interest, this is not a helpful criterion.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Feb 24, 2015 at 11:42
  • @Wrzlprmft: exactly... we can't draw a line. If for lack of showing research effort we risk that people would overzealosly vote to close all those interesting questions like e.g. this one or this, or many more.
    – Takkat
    Feb 24, 2015 at 12:06
  • 1
    1) Of course, we can draw a line. That’s what the research-effort criterion does. 2) The whole purpose of this question is that we do not close all questions lacking research effort but only those of a certain kinds, which we finally should make clear. 3) The second question shows research effort; the first question is not of a kind mentioned in this answer so far.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Feb 24, 2015 at 12:25

Questions asking for the difference between words, phrases or idioms.

  • 1
    In a way this is a subgroup of the other group. The differences in meaning quite often carry over in dictionary entries. Providing already existing research in the question is crucial to getting an answer addressing the core of the problem
    – Vogel612
    Feb 17, 2015 at 23:41
  • @Vogel612: Yes, but at times it isn’t. There are some nuances (e.g., dasselbe vs. das gleiche), which just do not exist in other languages. Even if, there is no harm in clarifying this.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Feb 17, 2015 at 23:49

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