What exactly is a shopping question?
A shopping question is a question that appears to seek help choosing or finding
- an individual journal,
- an individual publisher,
- an individual university,
- an individual academic program,
- an individual field,
- an individual research topic,
- an individual funding agency,
- a commercial online service,
- or similar.
It does not matter if help with a choice is only requested implicitly or if you need the information in question for other reasons. What matters is that answers to the question could be used for making such a choice. Note that questions about how to make such a choice in general – that do not involve naming any of the above – are not considered shopping questions and may be welcome here (see below).
In most cases a shopping question can be identified by fulfilling one of the following criteria¹:
- Naming one or more of the above would be an answer to the question.
- Evaluating, criticising, or comparing one or more of the above would be an answer to the question.
Examples for shopping questions are:
Do graduates from slavistics or anthropology have a higher average income?
Is there a university in Liechtenstein which offers a degree in llama wrangling?
Which is the most-cited journal that covers underwater basket weaving?
Why are shopping questions disallowed?
Shopping questions tend to suffer from at least one of the following issues:
They attract answers that are primarily based on opinion. Even if the question is asking for objective criteria (e.g., existence, citation counts, position in some ranking), people will offer opinions as answers. They may even attract rants or bashing as answers.
There is no objective way of deciding whether one answer is better than another. Therefore votes tend to be dominated by personal preference and the question will turn into a popularity contest. Again, this also applies if the question is asking for objective criteria.
They attract a lot of answers.
There is a huge amount of analogous questions and answering all of them would turn this site into a database – which we do not want it to be and which it is not suited for. Also, keeping the information up-to-date would be a problem.
We want to stay neutral in such matters. If we don’t, we may become subject to accusations of unprofessionalism or even libel.
No single person can compare the alternatives in life-changing career decisions (such as choosing a field), because everybody only has one life. At best you could statistically evaluate the experiences of people who made a similar decision a decade ago. However, during such a long period of time there will likely be changes that invalidate the comparison.
How can I salvage my question?
In most cases, the closest, on-topic question would be on how to find a journal, university, topic, or similar or how to decide for one of them. Note that the latter question may still be not suited for this site due to being too broad or depending on individual factors. In particular it usually does not help to anonymise the choices when you are asking for a comparison.
¹ If you wonder what the exceptions may look like, here is one:
Which journal was the first to use an online submission system?