This question here is practically asking whether or not a particular scheme used at his/her school is fair/ethical. Specifically the heart of the question says (emphasis mine):

Do you think this is ethical? Is this a wise way to deal with cheating?

Not so surprisingly the answers are opinionated, and sometimes not even answering the question at hand but instead providing different perspective (i.e. "at our institution we do...").

This answer, just as an example, focuses on how it's done in France, and has very little reference to it is fair or ethical, or wise for that matter.

I like the question, per se, but as I understand the scope and modus operandi here on SE sites, this type of question is a bad fit. I have raised similar concerns before, but haven't really gotten a whole lot of feedback. As I don't want to go on a downvote spree based on a hunch I would like to get some feedback/discussion on the matter.


2 Answers 2


Academia.SE deals, at a very fundamental level, with interpersonal relationships and human behavior. Opinionated and subjective are very necessary parts of answering the vast majority of questions related to ethical conduct, personality conflicts, and similar issues.

So I would say that such subjective questions are fine, so long as they otherwise fit the content of the board.

  • "So I would say that such subjective questions are fine, so long as they otherwise fit the content of the board." based on this would you say it's fine to ask a question like: "Is it worth the hassle to try to publish at a high-impact journal, if it means a lot of more work?"; it is definitely within the scope of Ac.SE and relevant to many people but at the same extremely subjective. (PS: I do not mean to argue against you but just to note that there is a pretty big grey zone, and at times even double standard, when it comes to being subjective.
    – posdef
    May 20, 2014 at 7:32
  • I'd cast the question as: "what are the pros and cons," because that makes it less subjective. Your example is not a good fit, because we're guessing at the poster's needs and abilities and goals.
    – aeismail
    May 20, 2014 at 7:38

I do think it is very easy for questions such as the one you mention to attract answers that say "My personal opinion is that this is stupid/unfair/wonderful." I don't think those kinds of answers are in the spirit of Q&A.

However, these questions can also attract answers like:

  • Here is an example of a policy that claims this is fair/unfair, and how this policy plays out in practice. (This is an objective statement of a policy, not the personal subjective opinion of the person answering.) For example, in this question I asked for answers based on experience with a certain kind of policy, and the accepted answer gave me just that.
  • Here is an idea you hadn't considered that affects the subjective determination you are trying to make. For example, in this answer I brought up the issue of variation of student's confidence in their knowledge as a consideration in deciding whether to forbid guessing.
  • Here is some research that further illuminates the issue. For example, in this answer, I linked to several studies on bias in academia.

These kinds of answers are very much in the spirit of Q&A (as per the help center text on subjective questions).

So, I don't think the questions are bad if they encourage the latter kind of answer.

  • I can't help feel that subjective questions will encourage both, and it will be hard to weed out the "good" from the "bad". Then there is the perspective of useful insight, despite being a personal opinion versus useless objective and factual information. I do not have a problem with opinion-based questions (as I mentioned) but I think it will eventually result in misleading and alienating some users in the long run, as well as a heavy load on moderators.
    – posdef
    May 20, 2014 at 7:36

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