A post put on hold for being homework points to this post on this meta forum.

I'd like to edit the post section on "How should I ask a homework question on this website?." In item #3 I'd like to change "Reference the source" to "Post the complete problem as stated." I don't have access to 50,000 chemistry books, and even if I did I'm not going to go looking for a particular book to find the problem.

I'd like to add that the poster should post the exact wording of the homework problem. The !@#$%^&*( paraphrasing of a problem that the posters don't understand drives me nuts.

Of course reference should also be made if this is from a book and cite the source, or from a handout paper.

So I propose:

#2 State the problem exactly as given and reference the source

Given that you don't understand how to solve the problem, don't paraphrase it. Paraphrasing often misses some detail about the problem that is important. Lead the post with the whole problem statement exactly as given.

  • If you're asking about a specific homework problem from a textbook, include the book reference to give credit to the author.

  • If you're asking about a specific problem from a custom assignment prepared by the instructor, please so note.

#3 Ask about the specific concept that gives you trouble

We are not a site just to do homework, so we expect you to narrow down the problem to the particular concept that's giving you trouble and ask about that specifically. That produces a question that is more relevant to others who might be having the same problem, as well as probably more interesting to answer. As a side effect it shows that you're not just being lazy and trying to get us to do your work for you.

The best way to produce a focused, specific question is to show your work. Explain what you've been able to figure out so far and how you did it. Showing your work will help us gauge where you are having problems: if it is a technical thing near the end, a short to the point answer will suffice; if it is some fundamental problem with understanding the subject, somebody will then write a longer, more detailed response. It will also prevent people from spending a lot of time going over ground that you have already covered or understand well already. Something like "I already tried X, but it didn't work", is a good addition to a homework post.

It's not enough to just show your work and ask where you went wrong. If you just need someone to check your work, you can always seek out a friend, classmate, or teacher. As a rule of thumb, a good conceptual question should be useful even to someone who isn't looking at the problem you happen to be working on. Of course, it's still good to include the text of your problem, just in case (more on that a few paragraphs down).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think this is perfectly reasonable and inline with the intention of the policy, but I'd like to see what the community thinks. I think it's hard enough to get the terminally lazy to do their due diligence even for step #2. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Mar 10, 2017 at 1:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @jonsca Having a more concrete policy on which to base a close vote would be nice, where "enough effort" has a clearer definition. Any OPs not willing to do the due diligence will just have their questions closed. $\endgroup$
    – hBy2Py
    Mar 10, 2017 at 15:09


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