I have see quite a few questions placed on hold because they call for answers based on opinions rather than facts.

My question is: is this an appropriate standard for Academia.stackexchange?

I understand and support this standard if the domain were programming (e.g. TEX.stackexchange) or science or history.

In the domain of academia this standard seems very inappropriate. While there are many questions that might be proposed that could be answered by facts (e.g. "What percentage of PhD graduates from non-top-10 Sociology departments get tenure-track jobs within 5 years of graduation?"), the vast majority of questions on academia.stackexchange call for answers based on judgment, which might also include personal opinion.

If answers are based on opinion and also provide justification and explanation, then I believe this will be sufficient to meet the needs of questioners.

Recommendation: I propose that the standard -- "answers should be based on fact rather than opinion" -- be dropped.

  • I assume you're referring to the "primarily opinion based" closures and not the "The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors" closures - if I'm wrong, please edit your post to clarify.
    – ff524
    Oct 2, 2015 at 4:45
  • Recommended reading: Good subjective – bad subjective
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 2, 2015 at 6:06
  • Also a quick comment on the question that probably inspired this: I would not have voted to close: “What are arguments for and against starting a journal article with ‘Towards a theory of’?” In fact, some of the answers rather addresss this question. As it stands, the only subjective answer to the titular question are usage statistics but you already give these yourself.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 2, 2015 at 6:10
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    @Wrzlprmft I read the article. I understand how this standard applies to technical and practice domains. "Academia" is not one, in the main. But if that is how you all want to treat it, then I will just obtain from posting questions. Carry on. BTW, your revision to my question would not change its substance, in my opinion. Oct 2, 2015 at 20:37
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    @MrMeritology: your revision to my question would not change its substance, in my opinion – In that case, I suggest that you revise it (keeping in mind not to invalidate the answers) and I probably will happily vote to reopen it. As it stands, the question invites answers like “I am tired of reading such titles; I would say they are dated” – preventing which is pretty much the purpose of closing as primarily opnion-based.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 3, 2015 at 7:54

1 Answer 1


tl;dr: While you may dispute the closure of individual questions on the grounds of "primarily opinion-based" (some people will even disagree with the examples I gave in this post!), I think this close reason is useful and has a valid place here.

I don't think we should - or do, generally - close questions based only on the fact that answers will be supported by opinion.

We do close questions if the answer is going to be "It's basically a matter of preference/personality, here is what I prefer." In these questions, essentially every answer is equally valid (see the first bullet point in the help center article on what not to ask.) While I may read an answer and think "I have a different opinion," I couldn't really read an answer and think "The person who wrote this answer is so wrong." For example, I think From an author's point of view, what would you consider as negative peer reviewer comments? falls in this category.

I think it's good to close questions like this. Otherwise, they tend to attract a stream of low-quality answers that pile on, don't add anything useful, and bring down the general quality of the post. The votes on the answers turn into an opinion poll, instead of a true indicator of convention or a measure of answer quality.

The "primarily opinion based" close reason is also used for questions that are closer to discussion prompts than questions, i.e. questions that seem like an invitation for people to share opinions and not much else. For example, How essential is curiosity?

If you have a specific question in mind that you believe doesn't fall into the categories mentioned above and shouldn't have been closed, open a new meta post about that specific question.

  • "Otherwise, they tend to attract a stream of low-quality answers that pile on, don't add anything useful,": this should not be an issue if there are also high-quality answers, that is, we should not close questions on the ground that can end up in the hot network list and attract also low-quality answers. I think we have a fair number of closed questions with very good answers. Oct 2, 2015 at 6:46
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    @Massimo I agree with you in the general case of questions that also attract good answers. Then at least the "bad" answers can be flagged, deleted, downvoted, etc. In the case of a question whose answers are "it is totally a matter of preference, here's mine" we just end up with pages of personal opinions with no real grounds to delete useless answers (the question asks for opinions, so they're not NAA...)
    – ff524
    Oct 2, 2015 at 7:00
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    I understand your answer and reasoning, but I don't agree with it. If the goal is to only allow questions that have answers that can be judged as correct or incorrect (right or wrong), then that excludes most of the interesting and pressing questions that people face in academia. (I am excluding discussion prompts) Oct 2, 2015 at 20:27
  • Now that I amassed appropriate reputation to vote on closure, I see a good number of the closure votes are for claims that something calls for an opinion. In general I have thought these were questions that deserve to be answered on this site. So I agree with OP that the general criterion is too broad. Jun 27, 2017 at 22:38

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