This question asks about studies about peer reviewing. It was voted to close as off-topic and one of the close voters gave the argument:

This reads as if you want people here to do your research on a particular topic. That would put it out of bounds.

I understand this to refer to closure about the content of research – which we usually consider off-topic here. However, here the content of research is academia itself.

My question is: Should such questions about sociological or other research whose subject is academia be off-topic or do we make an exception for them?

  • That's a good way to frame the issue. I now understand better why my question could be seen as off-topic. Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 17:05
  • Note that if the question was about how long it takes, on average, to review a typical article, I would consider it on topic, though, of course, answers would differ by field. But answers to that question can actually be useful guidance.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 21:36
  • 1
    Not on the same topic, but I don't understand closure of this question:academia.stackexchange.com/q/121976/75368
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 18:48

3 Answers 3


They should be on-topic. At the end of the day we exclude questions about the content of research because academics in general (i.e., the community of this site) are not interested in such questions or able to evaluate answers to them – this is better done by subject experts who most often have their own sites. Also these sites taken together receive far more questions per day than we do; the questions this community is about would drown in others.

However, in the case about research about academia, we also are the subject-specific community (maybe together with others like History of Science and Mathematics, Psychology and Neuroscience, a hypothetical Sociology SE, etc.). Therefore the above issues do not arise. Therefore, such questions should be an exception of the rule that the content of research is off-topic.

  • 5
    I generally agree, but it only goes so far. I think at some point questions about the nuances of the field of Education (the academic field that produces a lot of the research about academia) eventually become off-topic once they are no longer directly relevant to academics in general.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 17:16
  • My general concern with this is that while we are the community, we are a biased subset of it. Representation from bioscience and the humanities tends to be somewhat sparse here, so I think there remains some question as "Are we qualified to answer this for the broader concept of academia?"
    – Fomite
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 2:30
  • @Fomite: But that’s in an issue that goes beyond this question, isn’t it? (Also, the biosciences do not seem to be so badly represented here; humanities on the other hand clearly are.)
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Jan 3, 2019 at 10:37
  • @Wrzlprmft It definitely goes beyond this question, but I think it does touch on it, and our justifications for if this is on or off topic.
    – Fomite
    Commented Jan 4, 2019 at 1:24

I agree with @Wrzlprmft, but I would distinguish between "content of research" meaning results and "content of research" meaning methodology/approach/the process of research. I think the opposition to the question linked in the OP wrongly conflates the prohibition on the "content of research" meaning methodology with asking for a referenced answer (i.e., "results").

I think questions about methodology etc related to academic research should still be off-topic and think this is consistent with @StrongBad's comment:

I think at some point questions about the nuances of the field of Education (the academic field that produces a lot of the research about academia) eventually become off-topic once they are no longer directly relevant to academics in general.

Asking for results of academic research should be on-topic and has a tag . Asking about how you should do research into academia, looking for topics to research within academia, etc, should remain off-topic as it relates to the process of doing research.

  • 4
    I didn't want to go as far as your last sentence. I think a question like how do I evaluate if my new teaching technique works, straddles the line between result and how to. I also think it should probably be on topic.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 18:17
  • 1
    @StrongBad Thanks for the clarification of what you intended. I could see my opinion wavering depending on the specific question. The types of questions I mostly had in mind were questions about e.g. statistics or survey methodology that could certainly be applied to questions about academia but still don't fit here. I think a question about how to evaluate a teaching technique is at best a gray area unless it's closely related to peculiarities about academia.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 18:27
  • Actually, you are not correct about whether I "conflated" the two aspects about research, or not.
    – Buffy
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 19:48

Unfortunately the tag wiki for reference-request isn't very helpful. How "specific" is the query here? The question reads as if the OP is looking for a few lines in a literature search on a topic. Whether the topic has to do with academia or not is, to me, irrelevant. The question seems to be trying to avoid closure for being "opinion based" the earlier one was. However, the question isn't based on a problem that someone in academia has. Answers will solve no problem.

A good question (or answer) on this site is, IMO, one that a reader can return to in three years and say "Yes, I can use that.". That isn't the case at all here unless you are researching a specific topic and need that lit search.

The question at hand, and sadly others on the current active list, are without such consequence or future usability. On learning that the "average" academic spends, say, three hours per week doing reviewing, my response would be (a) "That's interesting." and (b) "So what?". The standard deviation of such a result would be so large as to make any "average" meaningless. For myself, I either don't do any reviewing at all for months on end, or do it extensively for many hours over the course of a month depending on conference scheduling. But that is about the specifics of this question, not the general situation.

The help center says: "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." I don't see any problem here other than a specific research question.

I still think it should be closed.

About the tag itself.

If I write a question of the form "I once saw some research on the significance about Mumbly-Peg among pre teen boys, but lost the reference. Can you help?", it would be a valid reference-request. If I ask for "I'm interested in the significance of Mumbly-Peg among pre teen boys. Is there research on that?" it would be, in my view something else. Specifically, it would read like asking others to do my research for me.

  • 1
    The reference-request tag wiki needs some work and its problems have been discussed before: academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3441/…
    – StrongBad
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 19:59
  • 5
    Given that the question was A) seemingly motivated by some more poorly-constructed questions from other people, indicating that there is some broad interest in this topic rather than just individual curiosity, and given that the question was B) self-answered with a community wiki answer by the OP, I think most of these criticisms are misplaced.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 20:06

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