Many of the questions, some of which are erroneously tagged , show little or no research effort and can be answered by consulting the appropriate style guide. Some recent examples:

I would love to be able to flag these for closing for lack of research, but Academia.SE doesn't have this close reason. English.SE has the following close reason:

Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our English Language Learners site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic.

Would it be useful to have a "What research have you done?" type of close reason on Academia.SE, with a link to a meta Q&A that explains the level of research expected?

  • These questions will still be bad questions even if work is shown. Downvote. Commented Mar 13, 2020 at 5:49
  • 2
    Yes, they're bad questions, which is why I want to close them faster. I know dv on meta don't mean anything, but I'm not sure why a proposal to close bad questions faster gets a dv.
    – shoover
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 0:30

2 Answers 2



The ease of research is easily underestimated and we can produce valuable answers to such questions. Therefore, we should not have a close reason or general policy to close such questions. Instead, we can use existing mechanisms to deal with these questions: comment, downvote, and (in extreme cases) close as unclear.

Canned Close Reasons

We can only have three custom close reasons. Since the proposed close reason would be needed much less frequently than the existing ones (shopping, individual factors, generic off-scope), I would not touch this.

That being said, the canned close reasons exist to ease reviewing and provide more information for askers than the usual comments would. They do not limit what we can close: We can close questions for something other than a canned reason, in particular if we agree on this on Meta. So, for the remainder of my answer I will be addressing the question:

Do we want to close citation-style questions that do not show prior research?

In general, prior research is not a strict requirement for Stack Exchange questions anymore. Stack Exchange aims to be the thing that you find when you search the Internet for certain questions.

Still, single sites can decide that they do not want certain types of questions without evidence of prior research. To take the example you mention, on language sites (like English Language & Usage or German Language, which I moderate), the asker has to argue why a dictionary did not help (in most cases). This is not because we want evidence that the asker consulted a dictionary (they usually have); this is because we cannot give them a helpful answer without knowing why the dictionary did not. Otherwise we can only create or cite a dictionary entry, which is pointless: Dictionaries already exist and do a far better job at it than Stack Exchange sites. Finally note that bad questions that can be answered by a dictionary are a major problem on language sites.

I do not think this translates to questions about applying citation style guides:

  • It is a real no-brainer to find something in a dictionary, in particular a digital one. Finding something in a style guide is far more difficult. You may still consider it easy, but then you probably know the relevant keywords, etc.

  • A concise summary or application of a style guide to a specific case makes the Internet a better place as it allows people to get the desired information quicker than otherwise. Replicating a dictionary entry doesn’t.

  • We are not overrun by citation-style questions, let alone those without prior research. In fact roughly half of the questions you cite at least mention some prior research (though it could be more detailed).

Finally, there is a meta reason to avoid this kind of closure: It will be misunderstood and abused by some close voters (which happens frequently on language sites). For most questions on this site, it does not make sense to require of prior research.

What can we do instead?

  • Downvote. That a question that could be easily answered by a quick look in the pertinent style guide is a valid reason.

  • Leave a comment asking the asker to edit their question to elaborate why their research did not help them. Keep in mind and mention that this is to better understand their problem and thus be able to better help them.

  • In extreme cases, e.g., where the asker already provides a quote from the style guide that appears to answer their question: Close the question as unclear.

  • 3
    Note that, sometimes, if not frequently, people who downvotes by saying that a certain question can be easily answered by a quick look to the pertinent style guide, actually never try to have that quick look, otherwise they would easily find that a quick look may not answer the question so easily. Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 19:54

Let me give a less "formal" answer than Wrzlprmft's one.

In my experience, style guides are seldom complete, and are frequently of not-so-easy interpretation, especially for novices. I saw people advocating the closure of questions about style by saying "read the style guide!", when the style guide doesn't even exist, or is either incomplete or seldom respected by the journals that should adopt it (along the years, I had a few fights with copy-editors who, in the first turn of proofs, made changes which were against their own journal style guide).

I would love to be able to flag these for closing for lack of research, but Academia.SE doesn't have this close reason.

What you would love, in view of the above, would be a very bad idea for this community, leading to its impoverishment. A lot of us have spent many years reading style guides, interpreting their nuances, and seeing them applied by the copy editors: I think we should be willing to share this knowledge, without the constraints of a bureaucratic close reason.

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    A middle ground might be to ask that OP provide some evidence of effort to show that they've at least attempted to find the answer in a style guide, by quoting from or linking to a related source that is incomplete or unclear.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 21:00
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    @BryanKrause I've tried asking "What did the style guide say?" and "What did you find in the style guide?" but apparently my clue-by-4 isn't big enough.
    – shoover
    Commented Mar 14, 2020 at 0:31

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