30

Proposal

Currently the definition of our scope with respect to undergraduate questions is:

[do not ask questions about]

  • Undergraduate-specific issues that could not apply to graduate or post-graduate academicians

I propose to replace this by:

[do not ask questions about]

  • Undergraduate admissions
  • Undergraduate life and culture (sports, nightlife, dorms, leaving the nest, etc.)

Close reasons, other help texts, etc. shall be changed accordingly. This includes the outcome of this proposal of mine.

Rationale

  • The current definition is difficult to grasp and a source of dispute.

  • The current definition often leads to questions being voted to close for no other apparent reason than containing the word undergraduate.

  • Going by the outcome of this Meta question, there is no difference between the two definitions.

  • The separation between undergraduate and graduate students is not universal and thus not generally understood. For example, there do not even exist accurate translations of the words undergraduate and graduate student to the German language. While the proposed wording still contains the word undergraduate, it only requires a very basic understanding of the underlying system. For most question, even that isn’t needed to see that they do not fall into this category.

This question

Use votes on the question to indicate your indicate your agreement or disagreement with the proposal. Use answers to suggest amendments or elaborate your disagreement.

11

Additional clarity is always good. However, we should make sure that we revisit this from time to time—someone may always try to come back and say: "But it's not on the list!"

  • 4
    And even for adding or removing aspects, a more specific list a better starting point. – Wrzlprmft Aug 23 '17 at 21:43
  • If you want to cover "not on the list", then include the current bullet point as a third one with a slight alteration: "Other undergraduate-specific issues that could not apply to graduate or post-graduate academicians" – Jeutnarg Aug 31 '17 at 19:22
  • 2
    @Jeutnarg That sentence is exactly what this question wants to avoid. – Massimo Ortolano Sep 4 '17 at 8:35
  • I think ",etc." covers the "It's not on the list." – Fomite Sep 5 '17 at 13:54
  • 1
    @Fomite Not really, because it's inside the 'life and culture' point. This doesn't rule out the 'what happens if I get X% in a class at Y point in my studies?' questions, or similar. – Jessica B Sep 6 '17 at 9:37
  • @JessicaB I'd argue that "Getting graded" is part of undergraduate life. – Fomite Sep 6 '17 at 9:52
  • @Fomite That's not the way I understand 'undergraduate life'. Otherwise everything an undergraduate does would be covered by that. To me the phrase suggests the parts of university that are not directly about (the content of) the academic curriculum. – Jessica B Sep 6 '17 at 11:23
  • 3
    @JessicaB I guess my problem with your example is that "What happens if I get X% in a class at Y point in my studies" could apply to graduate students, and as such it's not entirely clear to be that it is off-topic. – Fomite Sep 6 '17 at 11:25
  • @Fomite I believe it should be off topic. – Jessica B Sep 6 '17 at 11:29
  • @JessicaB But should it be off-topic if it's about graduate school as well? If so, it's out of scope for this particular discussion. – Fomite Sep 6 '17 at 11:30
  • 1
    @Fomite: I don’t see how such a question is undergraduate-specific and getting graded is certainly nothing I would categorise as undergraduate life (graduate students get graded too). However, I do think that it’s not a good fit for this site due to depending on individual factors (it depends on the programme’s regulations). There are many reasonable questions about dealing with getting graded on the site. – Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '17 at 12:06
  • @Wrzlprmft I realized by objection was, as noted above, actually that I think it's "on topic" in terms of not being undergrad-specific, but likely then off topic for the individual factors off-topic reason. Basically, I think it's a bad example of something that's not covered by ", etc." – Fomite Sep 6 '17 at 12:22
  • @Fomite Yes, I think it should be off topic even if applied to graduate school. And I've seen the 'but it can also apply to graduates' used to justify keeping questions I think should not be accepted. – Jessica B Sep 6 '17 at 14:01
  • 3
    And I've seen the 'but it can also apply to graduates' used to justify keeping questions I think should not be accepted. – Assuming that the argument is valid (the question can also be applied to graduates), then there should be another argument/reason for which they can be closed. – Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '17 at 14:12
4

I don't believe those two "definitions" are the same. I'm not sure how seriously people tried to give complete answers to What kind of undergraduate questions are not really generalizable to graduate education? (An "Academia varies more than you think" perspective) but it seems to me there are various other issues specific to undergraduate education (at least in the US) that would be very different for graduate education. For instance

  • general education requirements
  • changing majors (while it can be done at the graduate level, the process is quite different)
  • minors

That said, I am all for clarifying what's in the help center. So my suggestion would be to amend what's currently in the help center to something like

[do not ask questions about]

  • Undergraduate-specific issues that could not apply to graduate or post-graduate academics such as undergraduate admissions, undergraduate life and culture, etc.

(I don't know what kinds of undergrad specific questions tend to get asked on this site, but if someone has a sense of this, that should inform the sort of examples we give.)

  • 1
    Your suggestion would keep the problematic condition of “could not apply to graduate or post-graduate academics”, so this means little progress in terms of the problems I would like to address with this proposal. Hence my question to you: 1) Are questions that are neither captured by my proposal nor any other close reason actually a problem? 2) If yes, can you suggest a phrasing that captures them explicitly (rather through the aforementioned condition)? – Wrzlprmft Aug 28 '17 at 5:19
  • In addition to what @Wrzlprmft has said, note a difference between his phrasing in the question and yours. In the question, there are examples of things that will be considered related to "undergraduate life and culture", whereas in yours these have been removed, leaving people wondering what constitutes "undergraduate life and culture". The point, again, is that in a worldwide context the concept of "undergraduate" is too fuzzy, and we cannot base the wording of the Help Center just on the US perspective. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 28 '17 at 7:52
  • @Wrzlprmft I don't know because I haven't payed attention to what questions have been getting closed for being undergrad specific, but I don't want to get into situations where we close questions that appear to be allowed from reading the help center. (I personally have no strong feelings on what kind of "undergrad questions" should be allowed, and am just trying to follow what I perceive as the current site consensus.) – Kimball Aug 28 '17 at 12:22
  • @MassimoOrtolano I would be happy including the examples Wrzlprmft as well---I was just trying to write a brief sample, and I didn't know how often people asked questions about those specific topics like dorms. (Actually, grad students can live in dorms, and I have as a grad student, so I don't see why dorms are automatically out.) Feel free to edit my answer if you want to change the wording to be more specific with examples. – Kimball Aug 28 '17 at 12:28
  • I don't want to edit your answer because I'd prefer to completely get rid of the phrase "Undergraduate-specific issues that could not apply to graduate or post-graduate academics" because I see it as problematic (see also this answer of mine). – Massimo Ortolano Aug 28 '17 at 15:38
  • @Kimball: My questions were aiming at this: I see how the points you mention are captured by the old reason but not by the proposed one. However, I don’t see how, e.g., questions on majors and minors are a problem per se. Sure, there are many potential questions on this subject that are not a good fit for this site due to being shopping questions or depending on individual factors, but we don’t need a specific clause to close them. – Wrzlprmft Aug 31 '17 at 5:44
  • 3
    Oh, and did I mention that majors and minors in the US sense don’t exist in my country? – Wrzlprmft Aug 31 '17 at 5:53
  • Are there countries where graduate degrees have majors and minors? Some US graduate degrees have "specializations" that are suspiciously close to the concept of a major - e.g. an MS in Information Technology with a specialization in Cybersecurity. – Robert Columbia Oct 20 '17 at 14:43
-1

The scope "Undergraduate-specific issues that could not apply to graduate or post-graduate academicians" can be interpreted as allowing questions that can relate both to graduate and undergraduate issues, but that might be asked by a person who is facing, or has faced, the issue from an undergraduate perspective. Questions for and answers to these kinds of issues should be written from a perspective that could apply to both groups.

E.g. Instead of asking:

I am having trouble in my Freshman math course. How can I ask for help?

Ask:

How can I communicate with an instructor and ask for specific help?

Instead of asking:

I have been accused of plagiarizing on my Senior thesis. I didn't plagiarize. What can I do?

Ask:

How can I handle allegations made against me of plagiarism that I believe are unfounded?

Instead of asking:

Undergraduates at East Northern Outer Podunk University are required to maintain a 2.0 GPA. How can I ensure I keep a 2.0 GPA?

Ask:

How can I understand a minimum GPA requirement and comply with it?

The following topics could clearly be in scope for both undergraduates and graduates, and should be allowed, regardless of whether the question asker is an undergraduate student or not:

  • Study habits - how to study, take notes, understand a syllabus, etc.
  • How to communicate with instructors.
  • Basic research techniques - how to collect data, locate articles, etc.
  • How to cite sources.
  • How to handle allegations of cheating - founded and unfounded.
  • How not to be a cheater.
  • Understanding grading systems - GPA, quality points, percentage scores, etc., how they are determined, how to convert between them, how to compute averages, etc.
  • 2
    And how do your elaborations relate to the proposal in the question? Do you disagree do you want to change something? – Wrzlprmft Oct 20 '17 at 15:01
  • 2
    Sidenote: Your rephrasings of the questions do more than just removing the undergraduate aspect. Also, what’s the point of requesting askers to remove any hint of them being undergraduates for its own sake? That’s just making them jump through hoops. – Wrzlprmft Oct 20 '17 at 15:03
-2

I think in my mind the distinction wants to be between questions about being a student versus questions about being a trainee researcher/academic(/uni teacher?). So I would prefer to make questions about undergrad research (or even classes on presentation skills), or describing your work well in a scholarship application, on-topic, but questions about filling in forms for graduate finance off-topic.

  • While I see your point, I don’t think this makes for a good criterion, as it is too open to interpretation: Where exactly would you draw the line? — I am not exactly sure what you mean by questions about filling in forms for graduate finance as this is not a thing where I am from, but I strongly suspect that this would be captured by depending on individual factors or undergraduate life. Can you name any topics that would not be captured by another clause / close reason? – Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '17 at 10:10
  • @Wrzlprmft I don't see a need for close reasons to be mutually exclusive. I think it's important that the statement allows people to get a good idea, in advance, whether their question is on-topic. I don't think there is a clear consensus of where the line is, and I don't think it will be possible to specify it precisely. My aim is to set out what the spirit of the rule is, so people can both see whether a question is suitable and also why the distinction is where it is. I think that would help more with the 'but it isn't on the list' complaints. – Jessica B Sep 6 '17 at 11:28
  • I don't see a need for close reasons to be mutually exclusive. – Sure, but here we are talking about an example that is supposed to provide an argument for a definition of our scope. And to that all I can say so far is: Yes, we don’t want that kind of question, but I fail to see where undergraduates come into the equation. This doesn’t help to find a better definition or way of communicating our scope. – Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '17 at 11:53
  • My aim is to set out what the spirit of the rule is, so people can both see whether a question is suitable and also why the distinction is where it is. – Honestly, I think this is even more fuzzy and prone to misinterpretation than “cannot be generalised to the graduate level”. The more I think about it, the more unclear areas come to mind: What about the process of learning a field’s contents? What about tutoring? – Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '17 at 12:00
  • @Wrzlprmft To me those are part of training to be an academic, and also suitable areas to ask about. I have seen very very little excluded on the basis it is only relevant to undergraduates, because there is not that much that could never apply to any graduate student in any situation. – Jessica B Sep 6 '17 at 14:00
  • To me – Fine, but do you expect everybody to arrive at the same conclusion just from reading your proposed criterion? — I have seen very very little excluded on the basis it is only relevant to undergraduates, because there is not that much that could never apply to any graduate student in any situation. – So have I. Hence the attempt to explicitly list that very very little instead of having a rule that is difficult to understand and prone to misinterpretation. – Wrzlprmft Sep 6 '17 at 14:09

You must log in to answer this question.

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