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My question was put on hold for the following reason:

The answer to this question strongly depends on individual factors such as a certain person’s preferences, a given institution’s regulations, the exact contents of your work or your personal values. Thus only someone familiar can answer this question and it cannot be generalised to apply to others.

  • What does this mean?
  • Why is this a problem?
  • How can I salvage my question?
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General

The answers to many problems depend on individual factors to some extent and you (or the reader) has to be the final judge whether an answer really applies to their problem. This is inevitable and not a problem per se. However, if we expect potential answers to be dominated by such individual factors, we put the question on hold. There are two main cases of such questions:

  • There are so many unknown factors that covering all of them is beyond the scope of what we can cover in an answer. Such questions have similar problems as those put on hold as too broad: Answers are either overly long or make assumptions on your circumstances. In the latter case, there tend to be many answers based on different assumptions that are not really comparable, and answers based on assumptions that do not apply to you may even be harmful to them if you do not notice it.

    In the unlikely case that you manage to specify all or most of the unknown factors, answers would only be of use to you and not helpful to any future visitors.

  • The answer almost completely depends on a single factor. In this case, we can answer little more than:

    It depends on [your university’s regulation / your supervisor’s opinion / your personal preferences / …].

    This is not very helpful to you and we got tired of posting answers like this. If you specify the institution, we may answer the question, but in most cases only by looking it up – which is something you can do as well as we do.

Unfortunately, most such questions are not salvageable, as specifying the unknown factors would make the answer too specific for this format. Sometimes a related question may be suited for this site, e.g., what factors affect a situation or how to approach making a decision. Be aware that these questions may still be too broad.

Some common cases

Questions that ask us to make a career decision for you

Many important career decisions eventually boil down to how important you weigh your academic career, money, ethics, job security, family, and so on. In some cases, you can ask us what aspects to consider when making a decision, but eventually you have to decide upon your priorities and make the decision yourself.

Moreover, decisions often also depend on factors that fall in other categories listed here. Finally, we are not good at evaluating the impact of certain choices on non-academic careers (and questions pertaining to those are generally off-topic on this site).

Questions on a university’s, course’s, or similar’s rules

In most cases, academic institutions make their own rules and they tend to differ a lot. We therefore cannot tell you the character limit for your thesis or term paper, whether you can be expelled for one offense of plagiarism, or whether you can enter a specific graduate program with your specific undergraduate degree. We can only tell you, e.g., what is typically considered plagiarism, as this is mostly agreed upon.

Fortunately, these rules are usually written down and published, so they can be looked up. We can theoretically search these, but so can you. Moreover, this site does neither aspire nor is it suited for being a database for this kind of information.

If you cannot find the desired information at those dedicated places, there are either unwritten rules or your case is so exotic that it has to be decided on a per-case basis. Either way, only somebody familiar with that specific university, program, or similar may be able to answer your question, e.g., the student union or the examination or admission office. Often, however, you just have to wait or ask for the decision to be made.

Note that questions on the rules of institutions that operate on a national or international level are permitted.

Questions on research and publishing decisions

No matter how accurately you describe your work or research situation to us, we cannot know what is typical for your particular subfield. For example, a more accurate measurement of some quantity may be a breakthrough in one field while it is a common occurrence in another.

Therefore only somebody who knows your particular field and usually also your work (such as your supervisor or colleagues) can decide, for instance, whether your work is suited for submission, whether you should invest time in that interesting side result, or whether that review of your paper was unfair. At best we may tell you how to find somebody who may able to give you this feedback.

Also note that questions on the contents of your research are generally off-topic on this site and belong on the Stack Exchange (or another platform) pertaining to your field.

Questions on your supervisor’s or teacher’s preferences

We do not know your supervisor or teacher¹ and thus we cannot know their preferences and attitudes regarding such things as the layout of your thesis design or citing a work by their arch-enemy. We can only inform you about common standards, ethical considerations, or similar. Only that person or somebody who knows them very well can answer such questions.


¹ And please do not tell us who they are.

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