As everyone who's spent a couple of minutes moderating Chem.SE knows, the bread and butter of the close reasons is homework. I really want to stop this, for reasons discussed and agreed upon before.

My biggest nitpick is with how the "homework" close reason is used to close questions that do not show research effort. From the official SE stance, lacking research is a reason to downvote, not vote to close, even though science SE communities have become more lenient towards doing so because they introduced a close reason beforehand that was used for questions that lacked effort. One of the reasons the "Lacks minimal understanding" close reason got deprecated was its misuse as a "lacks research" close reason.

"research" isn't the same as "effort", but is one of it's more prominent categories. An OP may only show a bunch of badly formatted calculations, later edited, and it will count as "effort" and prevents question's closure.

For someone who knows the answer to a seemingly badly researched question, it isn't obvious at all how much research will lead to the answer, unless they're an active teacher/professor in that field, or know where the answer exists online. Furthermore, not everyone is familiar with the keywords and a professional chemists may get results in a few searches, while someone like me will get into search loops and ultimately end up confused with no useful info. All of this, while considering that almost anything can be answered with enough research, leads me to believe that for something that highly requires objectiveness like close-voting, "lacking research" is too fuzzy and subjective. IMO, what you should do when you see such question is downvote.

Also make sure to give this a read. Of course, as been said before, a community can override almost any decision about them, and tweak the less critical rules of SE if it deems it necessary for its health, and I'm just a user among many. I'm fine with all disagreements and opposing decisions. I wanted to request banishment of voting to close "lacking research" as homework on meta, but I wanted all of us to have it clear which mindset is more popular and how exactly should those questions be dealt with.

Please add your input as answers or comments. Make sure to explicitly answer the question in the title in your answers.

Image modified from source.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Law 11: It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position. (…) $\endgroup$
    – user7951
    Jun 2, 2016 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that there is an art to keyword selection. My organic professor can find literature in less than five minutes that I can't find in three hours. $\endgroup$
    – A.K.
    Jun 14, 2016 at 3:03

1 Answer 1


To close, or not to close, — that is the question: —
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous research lack,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by closing end them? — To die, to sleep, —

       Hydrogen, americium, iodine, ethyl.

Lack of research is not enough to close a question per se. There are quite a few types of lack of research.

  • Recently we had one that basically asked to explain what $E, H, S$ and $G$ (the thermodynamic state functions) are. The thing read as if OP had just found out these things exist and that three of them have $\mathrm{kJ/mol}$ as their unit. I would expect them to at least type the names into Wikipedia (granted, that is a tad harder for $E$, since energy has another meaning) and try to understand what is read. The way it was, the hammer needed to be put down and the question needed to, too.

  • On the other hand, every now and again there are questions that one could (with the experience of an advanced chemistry student) probably easily answer in a few minutes with Google. But maybe the OP is still at school or is studying chemistry education or is actually a pharmacist. In that case we should probably be more lenient than we are now and not closehammer on sight.

  • There is the averagely bad homework dump question where somebody is clearly just too lazy to open page 54 in their textbook. Closehammer on sight.

  • Then there is the type of homework which requires transfer. Again, we can (and possibly should) be more lenient here.

As for the question of how much research is required, all chemistry curricula at universities should enable the people here to quickly evaluate whether the research is reasonable, quickly done or whether the Google search term is obvious. I think that a large part of our user base should be able to discern whether we should homework-close a question because it is too easily looked up.

Side note: German.SE has a general references close reason that essentially says ‘did you check a dictionary or grammar book?’ In most if not all of the cases, the users, hardly any of which are trained teachers, are able to discern whether the close reason should apply or not. I think that the user base at chemistry.SE is no different.

  • $\begingroup$ In your first bullet point, you haven't specified what close reason should be used. It's definitely not homework. Then what? Too broad? Regarding GR, I gave it lots of thought and I couldn't come up with what could be the dictionary for chemists -- there are no universal sources both professional chemists and students use commonly, so it's not much of an option. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Jun 1, 2016 at 6:24
  • $\begingroup$ @TIPS The homework-catch-it-all reason was the one used afaicr, but a customised one would probably have been better. $\endgroup$
    – Jan
    Jun 1, 2016 at 7:28
  • $\begingroup$ @TIPS That first bullet seems like a "fundamental knowledge" type of question. On the one hand, it could be useful to many to have clear answers to such questions available here. On the other, they are dangerously broad, and might require huge answers to really do them justice. On principle, I think they're on-topic. Practically, though, there have to be community members willing and knowledgeable enough to write good answers, with time available sufficient to to the task. Seems a hard call. "Homework" is a bad VCR, though -- "too broad" is better. $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Jun 1, 2016 at 13:24

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