In this question of mine, something is asked which I strongly believe that it is not opinion based and can be precisely answered by members of academia. However, one of the users thought this question is basically opinion based and became so angry with it. His main problem seems to be that if the person asking question is not a faculty member, it is not his duty to ask why something seems odd in the university and because he is a student, he should never think about the logic behind the actions.

My question here is, even if a question seems opinion-based; the memebrs of community have some strong reasons for and againts it. If every one has his own way of doing something, it does not mean that everybody is right because it depends on the opinions. Even there are different ways of doing something, by comparing the reasons and experiences, we can reach the point that there is an answer to the questions (which are almost seem to be opinion based).

Could you please help me understand what the problem is with this question and how should I avoid such conflicts in the community?

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    Disagreements are not considered conflicts here, and in fact are part of the expected behavior on this site. Unless someone is speaking in hostile or rude language (that is, the words they use are offensive, not the fact that they disagree with you) in which case you should flag those comments, always assume that no one is angry at you, no one is trying to upset you, etc. – ff524 Jul 12 '14 at 22:34
  • @ff524 thanks for your comment, you are right; but in some cases I faced high degrees of angriness rudeness in the comments. I'm coming to the point that Q&As are preferred to be asked or replied by professional researchers; not a masters student whose job is thought to be only "studying for masters" not thinking about "why"s and "why not"s or about a correct and normal way of teaching and he is limited to these his cheap questions, nothing more. Even I ask for the problems in my questions, it is assumed to be ingenuousness. – enthu Jul 13 '14 at 8:08
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    Unless someone uses hostile or offensive words, the fact that someone thinks your question is not suitable, and persists in thinking it is not suitable even after you present your opinion, is not anger or rudeness. Someone misinterpreting your intent in asking a question is also not considered anger. – ff524 Jul 13 '14 at 8:14
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    Furthermore, don't take one person's comments as a general statement of the opinions of the site. Anything said in a comment or answer on the main site is the opinion of an individual. The place to get a feel for site-wide opinions is on meta, where people vote up/down to indicate agreement/disagreement. – ff524 Jul 13 '14 at 8:16

If your question simply asks "Which is better, X or Y?" then it is vague and should be closed for that reason. It does not make clear what you mean by "better". Here are some ways that it could be clarified, and the likely results:

  • "Is there a general consensus in the community as to which of X or Y is better?" That may be a reasonable question, but very likely the answer is just "No, there is no consensus". If you already know a significant number of apparently reasonable people preferring each alternative, that pretty much establishes that there is no consensus and you don't need to ask.

  • "Would lots of people please state their preferences between X and Y, so that I can try to get a sense as to which is more preferred?" This is a poll question. Not acceptable.

  • "Have controlled surveys been done to determine what fraction of people prefer X over Y?" A reasonable question, but may not get an answer if no such surveys exist or nobody here knows about them. (You might get an answer explaining why nobody is likely to ever to have done such a survey.)

  • "What are some arguments in favor of X and Y, respectively?" Probably an acceptable question, but note that it does not attempt to give a conclusive answer as to which is better.

  • "Is there objective evidence as to which of X and Y is more likely to result in desirable outcome Z?" Here you have an objective question that may have an objective answer. Notice that the subjective term "better" has been replaced with a specific criterion. In the question at hand, for instance, one could ask "Is one of these approaches to choosing thesis topics associated with higher graduation rates?" Or, higher job placement rates, more publications, etc. Note that you could get different answers depending on which criterion you choose: maybe one approach makes it more likely that you will graduate but with fewer papers. And in many cases it may be that no study has been done, or nobody here knows about it, and in that case you will probably not get an answer. (You might get an answer explaining why such a study is not likely to exist.)


"However, one of the users thought this question is basically opinion based and became so angry with it." I explicitly commented that I was not angry. "His main problem seems to be that if the person asking question is not a faculty member, it is not his duty to ask why something seems odd in the university and because he is a student, he should never think about the logic behind the actions." That is again something that I mentioned in a comment that I was not saying. I am starting to wonder if there may be language issues here.

Anyway: a discussion about whether opinion-based questions can indeed have objective answers is surely not going to ensue. If the community feels the question is too opinion-based then it will be closed; if not, it won't.

As is -- in my opinion, obviously -- the question lacks nuance in a fatal way. There is not an abstractly, globally best relationship between advisor and student. Thinking that there might be is: well, I can't think of a word other than naive. A similar naivete applies to the person who thinks that there is a best way to teach or TA a class, or that all women (or all men) want the same thing in a dating relationship, and so forth. What a master's degree is, and what constitutes a master's thesis, is probably the most highly variable quantity in all of academia. Even within my own department, the variation in standards and approaches to master's theses is extreme. In fact, with respect to the dichotomy that the OP proposes, most people who have advised several students have done both practices, because each is appropriate in some situations. Many advisors and students adopt a combination of the two alternatives within the course of the thesis work. The idea that advisors do not act based on some globally held "strong reasons" is an important nuance that the OP seems to be missing.

My discussion in the comments with the OP as a master's student was an attempt to find an acceptable question behind the question asked and an attempt to find out how the answer to the question would actually be useful to him in his current situation. (As written, the question is either from an "abstract" perspective -- which, as I have tried to explain above, I find almost wholly vacuous -- or from the advisor's perspective. Since the OP is not actually advising master's students but in fact is a master's student, there is a certain disingenuousness here.) This did not go well: he did not want to do this. That's fine, but of course it makes the question more likely to get closed.

  • There's no best TA method but there is a balanced way of teaching. I'm not trying to be ingenuous, I directly told that I'm a masters student, not advising any students. That's a question which I couldn't understand which method is more accepted by academica and why. That's why I asked for other's experiences. OK you are right, I am not even as a brave masters student to ask nice questions which a masters student at this level should ask. Could you please tell me how this question should be edited or how should I change my attitude in asking questions that this conflict doesn't happen again? – enthu Jul 12 '14 at 17:28
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    There's no best TA method but there is a balanced way of teaching. — No, there are thousands of balanced ways of teaching. Some would be more effective for me as an instructor; others would be more effective for me as a student. – JeffE Jul 22 '14 at 3:46

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