Based on earlier discussions on defining shopping (in a specific case), I suggest that the Shopping needs to be expanded. At the moment, the Asking section suggests not asking shopping questions of certain types:

Suggestions or recommendations for a university, journal, or research topic (a "shopping question")

However, often there are questions doing the very same thing asking about existing research (i.e., not asking for a topic or venue, but the research itelf). This is same as asking others to do the work for you. For instance, I'd think that a good question, on the other hand, asks for a specific information. Questions that are explicitly about finding whether a prior research exists or not are shopping for ideas. So, a question that asks for providing evidence of prior research should be treated as shopping question. A hypothetical example would be:

Is there any research that have studied the the impact of such and such?

On the other hand, if the above does not fall under shopping, then, one can argue that asking for a research topic should also be removed from the criteria since both are asking (read: shopping) for guidance.

  • Are you basically saying that you think all reference-request questions should be off topic?
    – ff524
    Feb 29, 2016 at 17:38
  • Quite the contrary, I think a distinction needs to be made between delegating literature review to the internet and requesting references.
    – OK-
    Feb 29, 2016 at 17:41
  • 1
    @Parrhesiastes: Can you please elaborate the distinction between what you consider a good reference request and what you want to ban?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Feb 29, 2016 at 18:19
  • I am not proposing to ban anything. I am simply suggesting to expand the criteria of what considered as a shopping question. Specifically, since the original criteria already include "research topic" it might be good idea to include "research" as well. I have included an example of each (good reference request and shopping for literature), but perhaps I have misunderstood what shopping means for populace.
    – OK-
    Feb 29, 2016 at 19:50

2 Answers 2


I downvoted this question because I believe we make an important distinction that separates the cases the OP has mentioned.

A question of the form

Is there research that has studied the impact of X?

is normally permitted only when X is an educational or pedagogical concept. A research topic that is specific to an individual's research would not be permitted; a question asking about the usefulness of a particular teaching or research approach would be on-topic here.

In addition, one of the big challenges in academia is that different fields use very different terms to describe the same concepts and ideas. Therefore, someone could easily do research into a given pedagogical principle and come up empty, when in reality the problem is that it just goes by another name in another field.

Therefore, I don't believe the OP's suggestion needs to be implemented.

  • Asking about usefulness is of course on-topic. But this is not what I asked.
    – OK-
    Feb 29, 2016 at 17:43

I think the rule of thumb is: if a question would not be off topic if it doesn't ask for references, asking for research doesn't make it off topic.


What is the effect of X on Y?

is in scope for some particular values of X and Y, then

Is there any research looking at the effect of X on Y?


What does the research say about the effect of X on Y?

should also be.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .