This is a follow up to How can we get users to write more elaborate questions?


Each Stack Exchange site has its own How to Ask page which is displayed to every new users. The page was written for Stack Overflow, as is perhaps most obvious when is says that "A lot of what we do is as much an art as a science, so a conclusive answer isn’t always possible." While that's valid way to remind programmers to "keep an open mind," that's not exactly how I would make the same point for this site; the audience and the subject are different, and so the advices are different.

Additionally, I think it's safe to say that the most common problems on a Q&A site about programming might not necessarily be the same problem as the ones on a Q&A site for skeptics. I think we could solve Skeptics.SE-specific problems by localizing it.

So, what do you think our own How to Ask page contain?

Also, a question for the SE team: Can we have a confirmation the community is allowed to modify its own How to Ask page? I would be surprised if you would not allow it, but I would like to be sure.

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2 Answers 2

Here's my attempt at our How to Ask page, heavily inspired by the existing one. Community Wiki so anyone can pitch in.


Welcome to Skeptics!

We’d love to help you, but not every question on Skeptics gets answered. To improve your chances, here are some tips:

Show your research

Have you researched the topic before? If so, tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and most of all it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

Watch out for straw men

It's very easy to misrepresent a position you're skeptical of. In order to minimize the chances of this occurring, we strongly encourage you to cite the words of proponents of the position you're asking about. If you read about it somewhat, quote excerpts of the text! If it's something you hear, try to quote their words as accurately as you can!

The more about their position you tell us, the better our answers will be.

Avoid vague terms

If you ask a vague question, you’ll get a vague answer. But if you give us details and context, we can provide a useful answer. Rather than ask if something is "harmful," ask us what harm you believe or heard it may cause. Is it cancer? Hyperactivity? Be specific. You'll get better targeted answers.

Be on-topic

Our community is defined by a specific set of topics in the FAQ:
[insert relevant FAQ material here]

Please try to stick to those topics. If your question is about the site itself, ask on our meta-discussion site. If you’re looking for a different topic, it might be covered on another Stack Exchange site.

Make it relevant to others

We like to help as many people at a time as we can. Make it clear how your question is relevant to more people than just you, and more of us will be interested in your question and willing to look into it.

Keep an open mind

The answer to your question may not always be the one you wanted, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. Sometimes, there will be no clear scientific information answering your question. The answer will be, "We don't know." Sometimes, the answer you'll get might not be what you expected.

When in doubt, ask people to cite their sources, or to explain how/where they learned something. Even if we don’t agree with you, or tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, remember – we’re just trying to help.

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Also, a question for the SE team: Can we have a confirmation the community is allowed to modify its own How to Ask page? I would be surprised if you would not allow it, but I would like to be sure.

This page is currently static across the network - it isn't set up to be customized per site. That is a fairly significant change, so it would need to be a separate feature request.

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