A question about teaching which requests Two elements that make XY2 and XY4 molecules was recently closed as "Needs more focus":

Needs more focus - if your question has many valid answers (but no way to determine which - if any - are correct), then it probably needs to be more focused to be successful in our format.

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

This can often be fixed by breaking the question into multiple questions or focusing on a specific part of the problem.

However, this question is highly focused. The question has so far attracted three upvoted answers. The question asks a single question, which is even presented as bold text in the question body to make it clear.

The question asks a single, answerable query relating to chemical phenomena. How can that be improved to be more focused?

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    $\begingroup$ But there is not single answer to the question, so no way to determine a single correct answer. As the help for closing (chemistry.stackexchange.com/help/closed-questions) indicates "Needs more focus - if your question has many valid answers (but no way to determine which - if any - are correct), then it probably needs to be more focused to be successful in our format." Your question could be the definition of 'Needs more focus'. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jan 5, 2021 at 18:41
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    $\begingroup$ Questions like yours, that are basically "list all chemicals / state a chemical that obeys certain conditions" used to be a bit "controversial" here: some think they're too broad, others think it is a case by case decision, some think they're OK. See e.g. chemistry.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3647/16683 Your question got closed by people who think it is too broad - perhaps this is an opportunity to further clarify the site's stance on it. The general consensus has probably changed in the five years (!) between the question being posted and it being closed. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Jon. I now see how to reformulate the question into a question that could have a single, definitive correct answer. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 17:28

1 Answer 1


You are actually already quoting the relevant section from the help pages:

[If] your question has many valid answers (but no way to determine which - if any - are correct), then it probably needs to be more focused to be successful in our format.

Aside from the fact that the question is not really about teaching, it leaves also too much room for interpretation and may drift into discussions about how to define a molecule and so on. There are so many possible answers to your question, or none, depending on this interpretation.

From the answers already given you can guess where this is going.

I do not suggest to change this question (apart from formatting), since at least one answer will be invalidated. One way could have been to limit the query to a very specific (and small) set of elements and discrete molecules according to a specific definition (like one from IUPAC). Other than that, the analogy between the real world example and the chemistry on a quantum level is quite far fetched and questions like these won't be very popular.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Martin. As the question clearly states that the information will be conveyed to third-graders, I do not see how any controversy regarding how define a molecule could ever happen. Is there any definition of molecule other than "discrete body composed of one or more atoms" that could be presented to a third-grader? On that same front, "chemistry on a quantum level" is not something that would ever be presented to third-graders. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 17:27
  • $\begingroup$ With your feedback I believe that I have managed to fit the question to Chemistry.SE. $\endgroup$
    – dotancohen
    Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ @dotancohen A molecule always has more than one atom. doi.org/10.1351/goldbook.M04002 I wouldn't be too sure that third graders (whatever their age is, sounds very young) would understand 'discrete' either. Otherwise it appears to me that you have just made it broader. All hydrocarbons now do fit this criterium. Also, I strongly discourage boldening the query; if it is not painfully obvious what you're asking, all the other text becomes almost invisible. Also, it has become a yes/no question. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 18:01
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    $\begingroup$ I thought the question was okay as it was; even closed a keepworthy resource; now Dave's answer does fit the bill, but reads more complicated than what would be necessary. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 18:02
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. I thought it was fine as it was, to be honest. I guess perhaps I was not clear enough about this, but the judgment to close is not as clear cut as might appear at first glance, and the fact that it took 5 years (as opposed to 5 hours, which is a more typical response time for homework-ish questions) certainly suggests that there isn't anything particularly egregious. Leaving it as being closed would've been just fine; we wouldn't have deleted or otherwise censored it in any other way. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 6, 2021 at 20:09

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