My question was put on hold for the following reason:

This question is what we call a shopping question. It is currently not accepting answers.

  • What does this mean?
  • Why are shopping questions not welcome here?
  • How can I salvage my question?

1 Answer 1


What exactly is a shopping question?

A shopping question is a question that appears to seek help choosing, finding or assessing

  • 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,
  • but not a software solution.

for “buying”, i.e., submitting (a manuscript), enrolling, applying, etc., respectively.

It does not matter if help with a choice is only requested implicitly or if you need the information in question for other reasons than buying. 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?

(Note that these examples were chosen to be only shopping questions and not also opinion-based.)

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.

Can I ask my question somewhere else?

For almost every question, you will find some place on the Internet where you can ask it and often even get somebody to answer it. However, please consider whether the answers that you are seeking are really what you need. For many questions, the above problems still apply elsewhere and asking random people on the Internet is simply not a good approach to make your decision. For example, the one person enthusiastically recommending the Journal of Definite Articles for your publication is very unlikely to have a broad, representative, and up-to-date experience with that journal (because almost nobody has), doesn’t know your manuscript, or may even be astroturfing.

¹ If you wonder what the exceptions may look like, here is one:

Which journal was the first to use an online submission system?

  • 2
    Please feel free to edit this answer to make it more informative, friendly or intelligible.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Jan 29, 2017 at 11:08
  • I reverted your edit because I do not feel the linked question shows any kind of consensus. If users liked the policy change, there should be loads of votes for it. Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 12:06
  • 1
    @AnonymousPhysicist: The answer in question has +9|−1, which is a pretty strong consensus for this meta (and most other sites). You can also turn things around: There is clearly no consensus for banning such questions. (Of course, then it depends on what you consider the status quo.)
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 12:21
  • @AnonymousPhysicist The participation on Meta is generally quite limited and 9 upvotes can be considered a fairly reasonable consensus. Commented Apr 24, 2020 at 12:41
  • 1
    It doesn't bother you that shopping for software is okay, but shopping for journals is not, on a site about academia? Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 1:31
  • @AnonymousPhysicist: There are reasons for this distinction, but this is not the place to discuss it. This post describes the status quo and serves as guidance. If you honestly want to allow journal shopping and have good arguments for this, please create a new Meta question.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 6:29
  • "If you honestly want to allow journal shopping" Quite the opposite. Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 6:34
  • 1
    @AnonymousPhysicist You proposed in this answer to close software recommendation questions. Your answer has a negative net score, whereas the here linked answer has a sufficiently positive net score. If you want to further push your idea, modify that answer of yours to be more convincing, not by editing this FAQ: that discussion is the right place. Commented Apr 25, 2020 at 7:36
  • It seems to me that "seeking a software solution" is quite different from "seeking a software product". The latter seems clearly to be shopping if the word has any meaning at all.
    – Buffy
    Commented May 17, 2020 at 20:16
  • Maybe I misunderstand "shopping question", but I do not find the examples in this answer very clear: (1) Do graduates from slavistics or anthropology have a higher average income? --> this could be answered with basic statistics, (2) Is there a university in Liechtenstein which offers a degree in llama wrangling? --> this is not a request for a recommendation, but a request for information, (3) Which is the most-cited journal that covers underwater basket weaving? --> can be objectively answered with statistics.
    – Louic
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 21:36
  • The way I see it, shopping questions would be: (1) What university should I choose to study slavistics? (2) What university in Liechtenstien offers the best course in llama wrangling?, (3) I weaved a couple of baskets under water, where should I publish my results?
    – Louic
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 21:40
  • @Louic: Those examples were particularly chosen to be perfectly objective, but still shopping questions (which I noted now). While they may not explicitly be about “buying” something, experience shows that they are almost only asked by those who want to buy something and come with almost the same problems as typical shopping questions – in particular people volunteering their opinion on the candidates and this site not being a good place to host a database for such information. Hence: “What matters is that answers to the question could be used for making such a choice.”
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Aug 11, 2021 at 22:34
  • Would this typically be considered a shopping question: "How can I find Academic Funding?"
    – Connor
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 16:17
  • @Connor: No, as long as you stick to the how and do not solicit individual funding organisations as answers (or lists, comparisons, assessments, etc. thereof). — I would have hoped that the FAQ makes this particular aspect abundantly clear. I would appreciate any hints as to where or why it doesn’t.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 17:04
  • I think it's clear, however, I feel like there are times when a how and what/where question are so similar that the difference between them is ambiguous. For example both "How can I find Academic Funding?", and "Where can I find Academic Funding" could produce lists of places to search and both would be equally useful to the community. I guess what I'm asking is, what do you see as the fundamental difference between two questions like this?
    – Connor
    Commented Jan 27, 2022 at 18:59

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