Let's say there is a specific paper that I'm having trouble understanding. Perhaps it's out of my field, or perhaps not. Is it suitable to the purpose of this StackExchange site that I could post a question asking about the paper? Or is this Academia site not intended for within-field or paper-specific questions?

If the latter, is there another field-agnostic StackExchange site which does accept such questions, or should I seek out a field-specific StackExchange site for such a question?

Tangentially, I'm trying to understand if this paper suggests that nicotene triggers a relaxation response, which might indicate health benefits that other nicotene studies neglect. Feel free to comment about it, but don't include that in an answer please.

  • 5
    Please read over the help section. In particular What topics can I ask about here? explicitly excludes the content of research, which would indeed mean that this site is not intended for discussing research papers in specific fields.
    – Anyon
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 2:33
  • You may want to try Medical Sciences SE
    – Nobody
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 3:40
  • Note that some fields have their own Q&A sites for such purposes, for instance the American Economic Association: aeaweb.org/forum (based on Q2A, free/libre open source software).
    – Nemo
    Commented Oct 7, 2018 at 7:17

1 Answer 1


In general, no. The content of research is not really part of Academia.SE: we cover everything else.

There are many science-specific stacks that are better suited for research-specific questions, but they all have standards as far as what sort of prior research needs to be done and how specific questions need to be. "Explain this paper to me" is never going to be specific enough, however, if you can contextualize your question with other knowledge (textbook or otherwise) and research you will probably do well in those scientific stacks.

If you don't understand a paper enough to understand which specific scientific stack would be interested in the uncertainties you have, you probably don't have enough understanding of the field to ask the question, and you should probably back up a bit and try to understand more general concepts first. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just a reality check for how much you know versus don't know (for the alternative, see for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect).

  • 4
    I think the one exception to this is that research about academia itself is on topic, right?
    – Laurel
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 21:36
  • 3
    @Laurel Yes, good point, although the subject of the question still has to be academia, not just the subject of the paper. The statistical approach to a paper on academic life would still be off-topic and belong at CrossValidated. The methodology for proposed research into teaching in an academic setting would also not be on topic here (it would be a question about pedagogical research, not a question about academia).
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 21:56
  • If your question is something like "Explain this paper to me", maybe you can separate out partial questions of it. That should be questions of some specific context. Then, ask them in the different SEs. You are welcome to ask many questions, if you spend effort on them so that they are of worth for the communities, ask as many as you like, hundreds! Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 22:10

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