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What are the norms for declaring a question to be "off-topic" when it appears to relate to one of the categories outlined for on-topic questions and does not fall into the category of questions that are not allowed?

The question related to chemical solubility and precipitation in the following post was closed for being "off-topic." The question was asked by an apparent student of chemistry who sought to understand why the correct answer for the question was correct. The OP responded to questions that led to OP toward the answer and requests for additional input to improve the question.

Seeking clarification. Thank you.

How do you solve for precipitate for a salt?

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    $\begingroup$ Well, you have here exact example of what violates homework policy - main reason for closing as off topic. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron May 5 at 23:20
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the clarification. In this case, the person who asked the question provided the correct answer but expressed a lack of understanding of how the answer was obtained. My intent had been to convey understanding. $\endgroup$ – BalooRM May 5 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ Ah, you answered in comment. Oh, well, it's better to not answer such questions, but on the other hand this was getting dumb. Such a simple question and OP didn't get hints... In such cases they might have get angry on their own lack of understanding even with lots of hints. Generally better stay clear out of this. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron May 5 at 23:46
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the explanation. $\endgroup$ – BalooRM May 5 at 23:50
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This is less an answer to your question, but some context for others who might wonder where it comes from.

If you do not have the close and reopen privilege (> 3000 reputation), which is probably rather hard to obtain, you do not see the reason, why the question was closed:

closed question blurb for low reputation users

On the other hand, if you do have that privilege, you see the reason:

closed question blurb for high reputation users

I think this was a dumb design choice, because it is not obvious, why a question is closed. Our regular close voters should keep that in mind, and perhaps link to the homework policy a little more frequently.

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    $\begingroup$ Okay that is really, incredibly, extremely, stupid. I did not know that. :/ $\endgroup$ – orthocresol May 6 at 14:13
  • $\begingroup$ @orthocresol No idea when they made that change... I'm not really following mommy's meta, so that was a surprise for me, too. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン May 6 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン It looks like the different messages can be customized academia.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4710/… $\endgroup$ – Tyberius May 7 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ @tyberius we'll look into it, thanks. $\endgroup$ – Martin - マーチン May 7 at 14:51
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It's not about whether the question is "dumb", "simple" or not. The point is, we just ask people to include some of their thoughts on how they approached the question, inside the question text itself. This question didn't (you can probably tell that they tried something, but exactly what they tried is still a mystery), so it got closed.

[Despite a couple of attempts at changing it, there are several reasons why this rule has stuck around for ages. I won't go through them all over again here, but you can find more information by searching for the "homework policy" on meta.]

It's fine if they respond to prompts in the comments, but such information should always be edited back into the question at the end of the day. The question text is meant to stay forever; comments aren't, because they're frequently pruned.

If the question is edited such that it does follow the above guidelines, then it can be reopened. Closure is never final, perhaps except for cases which are incredibly off-topic.

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