I just wanted to know that if I am unable to solve a particular question -- that is, completely unable even to start up with the question and i put it on this site without showing any effort because i have been unable to then will no one answer my questions on the site

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Geoff, I shuttled it over here and got sidetracked. $\endgroup$
    – jonsca
    Oct 20, 2014 at 20:54

2 Answers 2


Homework questions must show a bit of effort to solve from the original poster. We have this rule in place because SE:Chem is not a 'homework delivery' service. Homework questions should provide insight into the problem or insight into solving the problem. I particularly hate seeing homework questions that do not have any background to the question at hand.

A BAD example:

1.) "Which of the following is being oxidized in the following oxidation-reduction reaction?

$\ce{Zn (s) + Cu^{2+} (aq) \rightarrow Zn^{2+} (aq) + Cu (s)}$

Leaving question (1) as-is is not particularly satisfying because there no attempt at explaining anything about this particular problem. Furthermore, there is no attempt at solving the problem.

Consider this GOOD example:

2.) Which of the following is being oxidzed in the following oxidation-reduction reaction?

$\ce{Zn (s) + Cu^{2+} (aq) \rightarrow Zn^{2+} (aq) + Cu (s)}$

I understand that redox reactions consist of a species that is being oxidized (i.e. losing electrons) and species that are being reduced (i.e. gaining electrons). I've examined each species in this reaction and I cannot figure out if any of these components are gaining or losing electrons. I think it may have something to do with the charges on Cu and Zn.

The second example gives some information into the concepts of the problem by explaining what oxidation and reduction is (i.e. an electron transfer process within the context of a chemical reaction). Second, the user attempts to give the reader a better understanding as to what the original poster understands and therefore, what they may be missing. Finally, the poster informs the reader what reduction and oxidation is. I may be a chemist but this field is so diverse that I only know a tiny piece of it. Constructing your homework questions such as this will result in a more favorable response from the community. I know that I will not recognize every single homework problem posted on this site but with a little bit of information from the poster, I may be able to gain enough insight to construct a helpful response.

Of course, if there is a homework question that seems completely unsolvable such that the question itself is lacking or not enough information is given, then go ahead and post it but explain WHY you might think the problem is unsolvable in its current form. It is not uncommon to run across homework problems in a book or solutions in a solutions manual that contain typos or omit necessary information. Usually students end up writing solutions manuals and it is very reasonable that they will miss certain critical elements. Of course, if there is no typo and you are mistaken about a problem being insufficient, you may simply be met with a comment to your post (i.e. a non-answer) that points this out.


I think a key point is that users here are definitely willing to give hints and suggestions. We are all learners. The whole reason for the site is to ask questions and to learn from answers.

The problem is if you just post the question with no background, no description of your thought process, I don't even know where to start. Where is your confusion? What do you know and not know?

As outlined in @LordStryker's answer, the "good" example at least explains what the asker knows and makes an educated guess. If the guess or initial direction is wrong, we can explain why and make some suggestions about a better thought process.

I don't give my students exact answers. The idea is to teach and that requires active participation from the person asking the question.


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