How should we treat basic questions from new users that normally get closed for being off-topic, but are not completely alienating (i.e. "solve my homework for me")?

Obviously, basic questions should be discouraged and closing them is the right approach. However, I feel that it is possible to do so without completely alienating the new user from the subject of Quant Finance and possibly this forum.

Just coming here, creating a profile and asking a question demonstrates at least a tiny bit of "keenness" in the subject. I try to sympathize here with young students who opened their first textbook and are perhaps keenly trying to ask their first questions on what may become a longer journey (i.e. this question here: just reading and trying to understand Shreve seems like a good initial effort to me).

I have noticed that on Math SE, mods (and other higher-rep users who happen to come across such questions) tend to copy-paste what seems like a "standardized" comment under questions that do get closed but are not completely alienating; it's something along the lines of:

Welcome to this forum. We use LaTex for formulas here (see example here and guide here). See here for tips on how to ask a good question. Please note that basic questions without context and not showing enough effort are discouraged and considered off-topic.

I wonder if it would be possible to take a similar approach here, perhaps even automate this somehow?


2 Answers 2


I agree, if I had arrived at this forum and had my first question turned away for "being too basic" I would have been too annoyed to have returned. I am very keen not to do that to new users and I already think the community here are too quick to identify something as "too basic".

I would actually consider re-phrasing the aspect entirely. No question is "too basic" but that a question may simply have an answer that is already quite commonly known and published, and then in order to close a question as "having an answer that is too common" a link must be provided to demonstrate a location in which that can be sourced. Furthermore the source should be accessible and genuinely easy to comprehend. An esoteric source of an answer is hypocritical to the concept that the question is too basic.

After considering Dimitri Vulis comments I think "too basic" is a patronising and superior reason for closing a question. I think this should be re-formulated to be better suited to users.

  • $\begingroup$ I think, providing a pointer to the answer (in Wikipedia or a well-known textbook) should be strongly encouraged, but not required. $\endgroup$ May 1, 2023 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ Not to pick on anyone, but for the purposes of discussion, here quant.stackexchange.com/questions/75389 is a good example of such a bad question, imho. $\endgroup$ May 1, 2023 at 12:50
  • $\begingroup$ @DimitriVulis I agree with your assessment of this question, but I think this isolated example is representative of one end of the scale where the question can be immediately closed. However, in this particular case, rather than classify it as a "basic question", it may almost be too vague or too broad and contain some errors in the underlying specification. Too vague and too broad are less off putting and less patronising than too basic $\endgroup$
    – Attack68 Mod
    May 1, 2023 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, so I wonder if the software can be reconfiguted to ask for a comment when a question is flagged as too basic? $\endgroup$ May 1, 2023 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ @DimitriVulis: also, this user does not seem to be a new joiner (unless he was when he asked the question). Someone with non-zero reputation usually doesn't get "scared away" as easily when their first ever question is closed / criticised. Just to be clear: I am definitely for quick closure of "do my homework for me" questions or other vague / inappropriate questions. But as pointed out in my post, for the very specific case of new joiners asking their first-ever question which is not completely out of line, I would still close the question if too basic but provide a nice comment with a link. $\endgroup$ May 3, 2023 at 8:51
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    $\begingroup$ We could try to come up with canonical answers to frequently asked questions (there is some overlap between too basic and this I believe). In this proposal, ideally, a question that asks about a more basic concept is answered fully and with great care so that what is now deemed too basic can be closed as a duplicate because it's answered in a canonical answer. Hopefully that will be perceived as helpful and not patronizing by the OP. $\endgroup$
    – Bob Jansen Mod
    May 4, 2023 at 15:16

I like a lot the mental image of canonical frequently asked questions, phrased so they make sense, perhaps with "community wiki" answers.


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