A recent question is wondering whether there exists any good forum for getting peer feedback on academic job application material. It was closed as a "shopping question," which I really do not understand.

I think that shopping questions are essentially of the form:

There are a whole bunch of academic things of this sort; can you tell me which one fits my needs?

This seems very different to me, since it's asking whether a rather general sort of resource (an online peer feedback environment for academics) exists at all. I think this is a good question and should be reopened.

3 Answers 3


I had the same thought when I saw it closed. The problem with this type of question is that I think its quality depends on how many "answers" exist. If there are a large number of potential answers, then it seems like a typical shopping question. It seems like it is only a useful question if here are only a couple of potential answers.

In the case of the specific question, asking it as a how question, might make it a better fit. If someone knows a good on line forum, that would be a good answer. Other answers might focus on talking to your friends and advisors.

  • I've modified the question along the lines you suggest; let's see if it can get reopened now.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jun 23, 2015 at 12:10

To answer the more general question, I think some of us do not realise or disagree that we only close questions shopping for certain types of answers:

"Shopping" questions, which seek recommendations or lists of individual universities, academic programs, publishers, journals, research topics or similar as an answer or seek an assessment or comparison of such, are off-topic here. (See this discussion for more information.)

Nothing in that list even closely resembles the online resources the question in question was asking for.

In order to have more clarity regarding this, I suggest to set up a separate Meta question asking which types of shopping questions we want to close, as determined by what answers a question asks for. Each answer to this Meta question would represent one type of answers and explains why the corresponding questions are not a good for this site. Votes determine whether we accept questions “shopping” for such answers.

This question may then double as a FAQ for users whose question gets closed as it helps them to understand where the problems with their question lie.

  • Most journals are online resources, these days so, actually, I think that online resources do resemble items on that list quite strongly. I much prefer the distinction that Strongbad makes in his answer: there is a difference between asking "Is there an online resource for X?" versus "Can you recommend an online resource for X?" The latter is shopping; the former is not. Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 10:09
  • If you wish, you can define journals as a specific type of online resource, but that does not change the fact that the resource the question in question was looking for is drastically different from a journal. — I also disagree with the latter statement. “Is there any X?” will usually evoke the same kinds of answers as “Can you recommend any X?”. More about this here.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 11:51
  • I agree that nothing in the list is close to the specific kind of resource being asked for in the question that provoked the discussion. But your post claims that "Nothing in that list even closely resembles online resources" in general. That statement is, in my opinion, wrong. Commented Jun 28, 2015 at 12:50

Perhaps the policy should be that such questions are converted to community wikis by mods whenever they're encountered?

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