Sooner or later, we're going to have to decide which types of "homework" questions we ought to allow. Note that "homework" is not limited to assignments, but rather any question which has the homework-y smell to it.

I'm considering copying the Physics.SE homework policy wholesale, since the type of homework questions will probably be similar (in contrast to Math.SE, where homework questions are nearly unrestricted since almost all homework involves concepts). Of course, we need to tweak it a bit (remove the physics-y bit for one)

What are your feelings about this? Do you think that any changes need to be made?

(Once I get enough input I'll put the policy in a separate post)

Once we're finish, we ought to remember to put the gist of the policy in the excerpt, links in tag wiki (like so).


We're going to be out of beta soon. Please keep an eye out for homeworky questions and list them here. This way, we can know what we're looking for.

(There are other, conceptual questions tagged . I haven't listed them here--only the "here is some data how do I solve" questions)


3 Answers 3


First, I don't think we're preempting the issue. This is bound to come up as soon as the private beta ends, and we'd better have settled on a policy then. It's OK to discuss it now, but it doesn't mean the policy can't evolve later.

I like the Physics policy, but there are two points I'd like to add:

  • the OP needs to have shown his efforts to solve the issue: “I tried this, but it didn't work” or “I thought about first protonating compound 1, but I don't see how it can then attack 2”, that kind of stuff.
  • for questions, like for all others, we should be vigilant that they don't turn into a comments discussion, which pretty soon become unreadable
  • $\begingroup$ Point 1 is already there underneath the 'specific concept' section. I guess we could make it more prominent. Also your example would be useful. Point 2--on Phy.SE we give only hints and conceptual answers for HW. This extends to comments. We can add a bit on that, thoug. Thanks :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 11:37

I do like the physics guidelines, but here are my thoughts for some more abstract "homework" questions:

For an example, consider a questions "How is {some organic compound} formed from {starting reagents}?" That's pretty clearly a homework question, but I think that answering the question will still be useful for future site visitors.

I think there are enough cases where the question can't realistically be reduced to simpler concepts without totally losing the purpose and the nuances of the original question (i.e. an answer to a synthesis question that just boils down to nucleophilic substitution on a carbonyl is fairly useless).

So my personal opinion would be to tag the example question as homework and synthesis and then just answer it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Hmm, good point about synthesis. Certain syntheses are conceptual. And they can't be googled/rote learned/solved with formulae. I think we need community input on this.. I support synth questions, though. Borderline support, but I do support 'em :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 0:50
  • $\begingroup$ As a side note I remember having fun a year ago by trying to prepare various compounds from ethanol and only inorganic reagents. Got some concepts cleared, surprisingly :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ While I left the "homework age" including university homework quite a while ago, I can still see me asking exactly such questions, particularly of the type "How is substance X produced (industrially)?" (No Ullmann here at work, neither online access...) $\endgroup$ Commented May 12, 2012 at 18:21

Seems pretty good to me, but I think that we might be preempting the issue a bit. I don't see it becoming a problem very soon, and I think that as they start to show up, the community will move towards a more defined (and informed) opinion on this topic.

  • $\begingroup$ Hmm.. I feel it's better to be prepared for homework questions when we open the floodgates :). I'll just leave this open then. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ Personally, where I stand now (as someone that has not really been on sites that have to deal with HW questions like SuperUser) is close as too localized if applicable, otherwise just leave it alone. That opinion may change as I see more of them. $\endgroup$
    – soandos
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ an official HW policy becomes extremely useful to link to. On Physics, the procedure is "comment and say:'make it conceptual if possible', simultaneously close, reopen if it becomes conceptual". And many of our HW-types get reopened :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 9:46
  • $\begingroup$ I hear that, and I think it's a good thing, but at the same time, never having faced this issue before (not sure how unique I am in that regard) I am in favor of waiting a little. $\endgroup$
    – soandos
    Commented Apr 26, 2012 at 9:48

You must log in to answer this question.

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