Related: Should we have a homework tag?

Currently, our homework policy mentions:

4. Use the homework tag

Use the homework tag on your question, in addition to any other tags that identify the kind of physics involved. This lets answerers know that you're looking for an answer which explains the underlying concepts.

However, the homework tag is not much more than a bookkeeping tool, and is also a meta tag. I stopped applying it a long time ago myself, and I think we probably should get rid of it.


  • 2
    $\begingroup$ One advantage of having the explicit tag is a clear reminder that an "answer" to the question will likely require the OP to do some additional work. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ @bobthechemist I don't see how it does that. True, it's an indicator to answerers that only hints should be given, but I don't think it's that necessary. HW questions are obviously so from the answerer point of view. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 10, 2013 at 1:15
  • $\begingroup$ How does Mathematics handle it? Since they've been very successful with it, they should be the ones to ask. $\endgroup$
    – rcollyer
    Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ @rcollyer Successful? Not really. Their current policy is more or less to allow all homework, and this is one of the reasons I don't participate much there (flooding of too much HW). We have a stricter HW policy, and the question here is if we can remove the tag (not if we should remove the policy) $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 28, 2013 at 6:14
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to get some more opinions on this. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ There is a change needed in the policy: this is chemistry, not physics. $\endgroup$
    – LDC3
    Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ now both SO and MSE removed homework tag? should we discuss whether those reasons apply here. $\endgroup$
    – RE60K
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Aditya SO has a very different type of question from most science sites. Most questions on SO would be considered homework by our definition (just dumpign a hurdle with no conceptual contents). So not really, IMO. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 9:13
  • $\begingroup$ @ManishEarth "Successful? Not really" this statement is not true this is just like saying "the grapes were sour so I didn't eat them". Even after HW tag is removed, non-effort showing questions are also downvoted and closed as "missing context or details on ideally thought of OP on the problem" $\endgroup$
    – RE60K
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 11:52

2 Answers 2


I wanted this to be a comment, but it got too long.

I want to argue against removing the tag, at least for now. For some experienced users, certain types of questions may be obviously homework questions (or self-study questions or "why did I get this question wrong on my exam" questions). I have caught many myself, but mostly because I teach chemistry. I can tell when a question was written as homework or is part of a study guide. I can tell when the question is written so that someone else (not the OP) can learn whether the OP knows something about chemistry. Users who themselves are just learning chemistry, or with little teaching experience, may not be able to tell the difference, and may answer inappropriately. Having the tag provides useful info for new and inexperienced users. We should not unnecessarily make questions harder to answer properly, even if SO frowns on meta tags.

  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, but when I think about it, for allowed HW questions, there's no real way to inappropriately answer. The questions where one can answer inappropriately (ie, by giving a full answer) are usually the direct dumps of a problem from a book, and those get closed anyway. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 12:20
  • $\begingroup$ Then again, we're more lax when it comes to HW than Physics; and we allow some level of HWness. So I guess this makes sense. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2013 at 12:21

I'm new here, but I must say I enjoy the homework tag and would hate to lose it. True, it's usually clear whether something is a homework problem, but that is not always the case. And it's useful to be able to search for such problems. If I want to take a break from work and still do something useful I'll go for it; I won't be able to help people with tough problems, but a homework problem is often just right.

And really, what problem are you trying to solve by abolishing the tag (as opposed to banning that category of questions)? You only seem to mention two reasons, that it's a bookkeeping tool and a meta tag. But in my experience, both bookkeeping tools and meta tag are very useful things to have. (I have been a librarian among other things, and librarians love classification...)

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Meta tags are a bad idea because the tagging system on Stack Exchange is intimately linked to the search engine positioning of the questions. If you look on the title bar of your browser, the top ranked tag is appended to the front of the question, so it's more likely that someone is going to search gas-laws rather than homework to find the information that they are looking for. It is useful for classification, as you observe in your first point, which is part of the reason why we've hung onto it when other sites have done away with it. Anyway, your points are good food for thought. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for all your efforts on the site so far, by the way! $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Commented Jul 26, 2014 at 4:47

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