I noticed some users like to ask opinion-based or discussion-like "questions" and systematically use the tag to prevent them from being closed as such.

I'm talking about cases where, clearly, there can't be any research or publications about the subject such as:

Reference on how often "To the best of our knowledge" assertions turn out to be false

Impact of the visit weekend weather on the admitted graduates' grad school decision in the US

What motivates researchers in industry to publish their results?


These questions typically do not get accepted answers because, well, there is no such research. While I'm not necessarily against us discussing these topics, I find the use of the tag to sneak through closing a bit annoying. Is that sentiment shared by other users of this site, or is it just me?


I mean, seriously:

How often can the reviewers correctly guess the identity of the authors when the review is double-blind?

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    We could of course institute a policy that requests for references are off-topic here and that such requests be posted at Opendata.SE, which would solve the problem, if there is one, at one swell foop... Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 21:34
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    @StephanKolassa I don't think realistic reference requests are off-topic.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 9:39
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    The problem then is deciding which reference-request is serious/realistic and which isn't. I don't think we want to start voting on tags. Which is why I'd recommend simply downvoting useless questions into oblivion. Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 9:43
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    @CapeCode Thanks for linking to the double-blind question. I've just posted an answer with actual references. And seriously: since double-blind reviewing has a cost, doing it without ever evaluating if there's a point would be irresponsible. But of course I shouldn't sneer — as answers say, it's generally hard to evaluate what is likely to have been researched. Commented Feb 11, 2016 at 20:19
  • @Blaisorblade you have my up-vote for finding a related article. I maintain that the systematic use of the tag is irritating to me.
    – Cape Code
    Commented Feb 12, 2016 at 14:10
  • @CapeCode I was only commenting on the example :-), I won't debate in general :-). And thanks for the vote! Commented Feb 14, 2016 at 0:36
  • @CapeCode If I don't use the reference-request tag, then the page gets cluttered with guesses and personal experiences, which I'm not interested in most of the time (my colleagues and I have often enough of them). Your claim "there is no such research." is of course not always true, as I cannot know in advance. And I disagree with "there can't be any research or publications about the subject such as [...]": nothing prevent researchers from doing such studies. Lastly, I sometimes don't accepted answers, because there are two equally good ones. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 3:29

2 Answers 2


I too, find this use of the "reference-request" tag annoying, particularly because in some cases it seems to unnecessarily preclude providing an answer based on experience (see, for example, my comment and then answer on the "What motivates researchers in industry to publish their results?" question).

My approach has been, whenever possible, to either:

  1. Ignore the "reference-request" tag when used by this particular user and to answer anyway based on experience, or
  2. Explain why no such study is likely to have been created.
  • Why "unnecessarily"? Sometimes an OP may only want answers supported by some facts, not just personal experiences (e.g., in case the OP already discussed the question with some colleagues, and gleaned enough personal experiences). Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 18:12
  • @FranckDernoncourt "Supported with facts" is a much weaker statement than "Must be based on an external reference," which is the typical interpretation of "reference-request."
    – jakebeal
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 19:10
  • The issue with facts without references is that it is harder to check them. Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 21:13

To be honest, I think you are a little too quick in inferring nefarious motives ("to sneak through closing") to posters. Regarding your three examples:

Conversely, I don't see a "polling" aspect to the questions you refer to, even if they do generate some discussion in the comments.

Bottom line: If you disagree with a tag, edit it away and see whether the poster insists. If you feel that a question is not useful, downvote it. A tag does not prevent you from voting. I'd trust the voting system to make sure useless questions sink.

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