Some questions -- often, but not always, homework (or test) problems show little effort on the part of the asker. If the problem is clearly phrased, it's not accurate to close it for:

  • unclear what you're asking
  • too broad

I've noticed that, in practice, people do use those reasons, for lack of a better one.

Why don't we have as a close reason:

  • question (or asker) shows little effort

If you'd like an example:

Prove that "nand" gates can be used to compute the boolean functions "and", "or", and "not".

This question is neither unclear (I hope), nor too broad, nor is it off-topic, but it is very low quality.

  • $\begingroup$ Could someone tell me why the downvote? Is this a duplicate, off-topic, faq, or what? $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2015 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ On meta sites, a downvote on a question that proposes something often indicates disagreement with what is being proposed. $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2015 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, @Gilles $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2015 at 1:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Gilles I dislike this convention. Those disagreeing can post an answer to that effect. This is an issue worth discussing, hence it should be upvoted (imho). $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Feb 17, 2015 at 7:18
  • $\begingroup$ should se award A's for effort? $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Feb 21, 2015 at 21:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think this question indicates a real problem. There are many "dump" questions that are being closed as "unclear what you are asking", while it is perfectly clear what the OP is asking. I do believe we need a different cause for closing such questions; however low effort is probably not the way to go, as Gilles argue. $\endgroup$
    – Ran G.
    Apr 11, 2015 at 1:36

1 Answer 1



We close questions because they cannot or should not be answered:

  • Duplicate: we don't want to answer the question because it's already been asked and answers before.
  • Off-topic: we don't want to answer because the question is outside our area of expertise, so answers cannot be trusted.
  • Unclear: we can't answer because the it isn't clear what the question is about.
  • Too broad: it would be unreasonable to expect a decent answer because there's too much to say.
  • Primarily opinion-based: answers would be a soapbox for the answerers rather than helpful advice.

None of this has to do with effort. It's possible to have questions which are on-topic and would lead to reasonably-scoped, interesting answers, with the asker spending zero effort. Copying a question from elsewhere is an obvious example. It makes no sense to arbitrarily prevent questions from being answered based on an unavoidably subjective assessment of the state of the asker's mind. Closure is based solely on the question's content, and specifically on whether it is answerable.

There is a tool on Stack Exchange whose description is

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

This is downvoting. “Shows too little effort” is a valid reason to downvote.

There is some correlation between a lack of effort and an unanswerable question. For example, if a question is unclear, then both closure and downvoting are suggested. But there is a reason why closure and downvoting are different tools. Some questions warrant one and not the other.

We only close homework questions when they are not answerable. You are not supposed to close a homework question because the asker was lazy. Common reasons to close homework questions include:

  • The question doesn't stand on its own. For example, it's a continuation of a previous exercise, or of material seen in the lecture, and can't be understood without it.
  • The question lacks information about what answers can assume. While it would be possible to answer it, the answer may end up going well over the asker's head, using theorems that the asker is supposed to derive from first principles, etc.
  • The question is an exercise that requires applying several concepts in a straightforward way. Explaining one of the concepts involved would be ok, but explaining all of them would be too much.
  • The question is a scan of text. This is an exception — we have a consensus that readers aren't supposed to decipher the text on images.

If you think a question is valid but the asker was lazy, the correct behavior is to downvote the question but leave it open.

There was a similar debate about Stack Overflow a while ago. You can read my thoughts here and here, and Shog9's conclusion.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for taking the time to respond and pointing me to related discussions. You obviously care a lot. $\endgroup$ Feb 17, 2015 at 1:10
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    $\begingroup$ That said, we generally do dislike problem dumps. The usual protocol is downvoting and posting a comment explaining why. (FWIW, if a question gets enough downvotes it's hidden from question lists, and eventually deleted iirc. (cc @espertus) $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Feb 17, 2015 at 7:17
  • $\begingroup$ Two maybe less known factoids: 1) Downvoting questions does not cost you any reputation. 2) Reputation lost from downvoting answers is refunded if that answer gets deleted. Ergo, 3) downvoting real crap does not cost you anything, there is only gain. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Feb 18, 2015 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Raphael Regarding downvoted questions, more precisely: questions scoring ≤-4 are hidden from the front page, but not from other questions list (/questions, search results, …). Questions with a negative score are automatically deleted after some time if they are unanswered for some value of unanswered, see the FAQ for details. $\endgroup$ Feb 18, 2015 at 16:03

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