I was trying to flag this question as off topic. Recall the Help Center says

However, please do not ask questions about

  • Undergraduate-specific issues that could not apply to graduate or post-graduate academicians
  • Suggestions or recommendations for a university, journal, or research topic (a "shopping question")
  • Preparation for a non-academic career ("What graduate degree will help me get a job as X?")
  • The content of your research, rather than the process of doing research

and this particular question (at least the main question in this post) is about the 3rd point. Here are the options to select for flagging something as off topic:

  • Questions that cannot be generalized to apply to others in similar situations are off-topic. For assistance in writing questions that can apply to multiple people facing similar situations, see: What kinds of questions are too localized?
  • Questions about problems facing undergraduate students are off-topic unless they can also apply to graduate or post-graduate academicians as described in What topics can I ask about here?
  • This question appears to be off-topic because it seems to seek specific advice for a very specific situation, and it's likely that only someone with a good understanding of your situation will be able to provide an objectively correct answer.
  • Blatantly off-topic (this question has nothing to do with academics)
  • This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network

I didn't feel that any of these options really get to the heart of why it seems to be inappropriate. (If I'm wrong, please let me know which one does, and why.) Is there a reason they don't quite line up with the off-topic topics listed in the Help Center? If not, is this something we can address by adding more options (I have some vague impression that we have a limited number of reasons we can list, but I don't know if this is true or what the limit would be)?

  • In part, we're limited to just three custom close reasons.
    – aeismail
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:06
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    There should be an "other reason" button on "off topic" that you can fill in whatever explanation seems most appropriate to you. Are you now able to see that?
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 26, 2015 at 20:09
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    Kimball: I don't really see why the question is off-topic (Off-center, yes, but that's not the same thing.) Could you explain a bit more why you feel that way? Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 1:53
  • 1
    Added upon more thought: okay, I see that you've pointed to the third close reason, which does apply to the first half (only) of the question. However I have to say that I find the idea that questions like "Can I get job Y with graduate degree X?" are off-topic on a site about (especially graduate-level) academia a bit distressing. Don't we make an academic Q&A site a bit, um, academic by excluding such questions? It doesn't seem so healthy to me. Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 1:57
  • @PeteL.Clark Actually, I agree. I personally don't think such questions should necessarily be closed, but based on our "official policies" there seems to be a consensus that we should. (Since the title is about preparation for non-academic employment, I took that to be the main question.) I just though to flag it so others can look at it and make a decision to revise, close or keep it. (Should I only flag questions if I personally think they don't belong?)
    – Kimball
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 2:26
  • @PeteL.Clark Though perhaps we should revisit whether questions about "preparation for a non-academic career" are necessarily off topic?
    – Kimball
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 2:31
  • @jakebeal I don't get an "other" reason after ticking "close" then "off topic." Do you? Maybe this only comes with sufficient rep?
    – Kimball
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 2:34
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    @PeteL.Clark I find "Can I get job X with degree Y?" just as problematic as "Can I go to grad school for X with degree Y?" The answer is always essentially: "Sure, I guess, but it's going to be harder than if you had a better match..."
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 2:52
  • @jakebeal see meta.academia.stackexchange.com/questions/787/… regarding the "other" reason for closing.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 9:01

1 Answer 1


I am going to ignore whether the prompting question is on topic or not, as I do not think it is particularly important. There are a couple of things going on here.

The first relates to differences between flagging and voting to close a question. Users with more than 3000 rep can vote to close questions, while users with less than 3000 rep (and more than 15 rep) can only flag posts for attention. When flagging a post, there is a reason of "should be closed", which gives an option of "off-topic" that leads to our three predefined reasons. There are differences between flagging and voting to close one of which is that when voting to close, in addition to the off topic list, there is an "other" box that is not available for flagging. I am not sure if this is by design or not (it might be worth searching and/or asking on the meta.SE).

The second issue is that we are limited to 3 custom close reasons so adding one essentially means removing another. We can do that, but we need a proposal of what to say. Something like New custom close reason (but also listing which reason to remove). Have only three predefined reasons is not a huge deal since users with enough rep to vote to close can vote with a custom reason. Users who only have enough rep to flag, can simply flag it as "other" an leave there reason. That said, in general, if it is not one of the predefined reasons for closing, it might be cleaner to let someone with more rep vote to close because as mods, we tend not to like to unilaterally close borderline questions. That said, by being limited to 3 reasons it means there are differences between the help pages and the flagging/closing pages.

The third issue, and probably worth a separate question, is do we want to reword

Preparation for a non-academic career ("What graduate degree will help me get a job as X?")

  • Users who only have enough rep to flag, can simply flag it as "other" an leave there reason. I guess you mean to not flag it close > off-topic but "in need of moderator attention." I thought about this, but it seems like an unintuitive and somewhat contradictory solution, as that option says underneath "not one of the above."
    – Kimball
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 9:41
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    @Kimball that is because "other" is different. When you flag it as close, it goes into the high rep user review queue while "other" only goes to the moderator review queue. My personal opinion, and not my mod opinion, is that what SE is saying is that low rep users can help close questions that are off topic for common reasons but not for uncommon reasons.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 9:46
  • I think that this means we need slightly better documentation on the flagging help page to explain this fact.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 27, 2015 at 10:04
  • @jakebeal which page do you mean. A lot of the help pages can only be changed by SE employees.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 11:29
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    @StrongBad I was thinking the one that explains how the closing-related privileges work, which seems to be where the reasons are listed without talking about "other"
    – jakebeal
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 12:44
  • @jakebeal If you mean this page it does not seem that it can be edited by users or mods. I think asking a new question on the main meta.se is the way to go.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:39

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