In some questions on Academia, it happens that some questions should be closed for more than one reason. For instance, a questions is about undergraduates, and at the same time it should be closed because of it's content for asking a shopping question. Which one do you choose, being off-topic because it is about undergraduates or being a shopping question?

This also applies to broad questions. I mean, some questions ask about a list of relevant websites or journals in an area of science; this question may be closed for being too broad or for the reason of being a shopping question. Which reason do you choose to vote to close a question? Being a shopping question or being too broad?

My question here is, as a person deciding to close a question; how do you give priority in choosing such reasons? Which reasons are more important to be checked and to be in mind when judging on-topicness of questions?

  • 1
    Good question! I have encountered this problem hundreds of times. Thanks for asking it!
    – Nobody
    Jul 11, 2015 at 8:49

3 Answers 3


I don't know about others, but the way in which I have approached this question is to think about which issue is the most salient for any attempt to fix the question.

Close votes put a question on hold, at which point the asker is encouraged to try to repair the question if possible. Thus, if the question has multiple problems with it, I try to select the one that I think will pose the largest problem for attempting to reopen it.

As I see it, then, there are three "high priority" reasons where we usually expect the question to not be re-openable via editing:

  • "Not about academia" has highest priority: it doesn't matter if a question about debugging a Java program has other problems; it still doesn't belong on this site.
  • "Undergraduate only" is similar (though occasionally it can be fixed)
  • "Duplicate" also generally can't or shouldn't be fixed by editing (though occasionally clarification will make it clear that it is more distinct than it first appears).

The remaining reasons ("Shopping", "too individual", "too broad", "unclear", and "opinion-based") are all generally fixable if the original poster cares to do so. As I see it, these get superseded by the high priority reasons, but then we should just pick the one we think is most problematic with the particular post, i.e. will best guide the person in editing toward reopening.

If the OP then edits to fix only the one reason without dealing with the other, we can guide them further in the comments.


It depends.

  • If any issue makes the question clearly unsalvagable, e.g., if it is blatantly off-topic, select the corresponding close reason. Keep in mind that you may err about unsalvagability. If there is any doubt, better leave a comment.

  • If there is only one underlying issue that is captured by two close reasons, select the more helpful close reason. For example, for most shopping questions that are also too broad, making them non-shopping will also automatically make them not too broad anymore. In this case, the shopping-question close reason is probably more helpful to the asker.

    Remember that an individual comment explaining what’s wrong may help the asker to salvage the question before it’s closed in the first place and give them more specific information as to what is problematic than a canned close reason can (see also here).

  • If there is more than one separate problem, e.g., if the question is unclear but from what can be understood you suspect that it’s also too individual, by all means leave a comment explaining all that is wrong with the question. It is very frustrating for an asker if they put effort into fixing a question and then get told that it has another issue which they may not be able to fix.

    Select the most problematic issue to ease the job for future reviewers.


My (not at all well-defined) approach is usually to select the close reason that is most evident. I do not have a "taxonomy" of close reasons in my head, in which some count more than others. At the end of the day, a close is a close, and any single reason alone is sufficient to close a question.

If multiple close reasons seem equally pronounced (interestingly, there are many questions that are at the same time very localized and very broad, AKA the notorious "here is my life story, what can I do?" questions), I typically just select one at random if there are no previous votes on the question. Depending on how much time I have and how realistic I see the question being fixed and re-opened, I may explain the other problem in a comment.

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