You can find a TL;DR at the end.

Some users suggest that previous research before asking a question is a must. I don't think it should be a must, but I do agree that it enriches the question, it provides many benefits, and it should be encouraged (but not required or enforced). Even SE admins seem to have different opinions on this, and I've been linked to both sides of the coin through admin's meta posts, blogs, podcasts, etc.

With that in mind, I stumbled upon this question:

How to set up multiple tracks recording in Magix music maker

The original closer (the first to vote close), which has now deleted all his comments, commented that he was closing because of "lack of previous research". He also said that the answer "could be found in the second link of a google search" (which then became obvious that was not true), and that the definitive answer to that question was "Music maker record one track at a time.(if I am not wrong)", that was what the second link said. He then deleted the comments because "he already did more effort than the asker" (he deleted that comment too some time after). You can also find my replies to those claims in the comments.

After doing some research myself, including the manual, and knowing a thing or two about DAWs (I make a living out of them), I found no definitive answer to his question. I did found that one person saying "I think you can't", the same the original closer was referencing, but that's it.

"I think you can't" is not a definitive answer, and it's the only one that can be found through previous research. There are many obscure software out there, a lot of which is poorly documented. That shouldn't be a reason to prohibit questions focusing on that software. I think it's the contrary, a very good reason to come here and ask those questions, making the potential answer available to other people. Isn't it the very goal and definition of SE?

Knowing this, is too far-fetched to think that the asker in fact did previous research but found no good answers to his question?

So, why are we closing that question? (and potentially will close more on similar scenarios, which is why I'm trying to bring attention to this). We already stablished that in this case previous research is fruitless, so what else are we expecting from that question?

A second issue I find here is that the closers choose "off topic" as the reason. There is no close reason for lack of research, and I wasn't aware it was one.

So, in short, I have these questions/observations:

  1. Why are we closing questions because of lack research, when there is no definitive answer to find from that research, when the research is fruitless? Not finding answers elsewhere shouldn't prohibit us from asking questions here. It doesn't make sense.

  2. Why are we closing questions because of lack of research at all? Downvote it, comment on it, avoid the question; sure, I understand that. But closing it? Is it justified? Is that what we want to do now?

  3. If we are closing questions because of lack of previous research, why are we doing it just to a few select ones? Most of the questions asked here do not share previous research. In fact a very small fraction of them do. Yet this is brought as a complain and /or close reason in a few selected cases. In this specific case it comes from people that don't know or understand the subject (you can see who voted to close in the vote history). This is fine, not knowing is fine, but it is also a good reason to avoid including lack of research as an enforced dynamic, as a close reason. Often the closers will have no way to correctly judge the research and results available, which I think was the case here.

  4. If we make "lack of research" an official close reason, we should include it as an official reason in the close section, something you can select when voting to close a question. If not, we as a community and the mods should make it clear that it is not a close reason to prevent further confusion.

  • 1
    Ad 2: Not that it is too much, it's simply not the purpose of closing. None of the close reasons, as far as I see, reads "bad quality". The only thing that reads "bad quality" is a deletion reason, but even there it's accompanied by "can't be salvageable", which is certainly not the case here. Ad 4: VTC reason "lack of research" here would be a one-of-its-kind on the SE network.
    – yo'
    Feb 6, 2015 at 20:40
  • @yo' That's my point and what I want to ask the community. Do we want to make it a close reason? Do we want to start closing questions because of "lack of research"? Do we want this to be an official and enforced dynamic? Feb 6, 2015 at 20:45

2 Answers 2


I think we should not accept lack of previous research as a close reason. We should encourage previous research, but not enforce it, not make it a requisite with closing or deletion as punishment. Here is why.

  1. Having answers in other places does not mean that those answers are suitable for the asker. They could be badly explained, badly formulated, distorted, biased, focused on a different expertise level (too complicated, too simplified), or just plain wrong. Carving a new space here for more answers to that same question improves the field, adds to the subject.

  2. Not every user has the knowledge needed to correctly judge the question and the answers available, to judge the available research, to judge if previous research was done. Which I think is what happened in the linked example. The closer thought the answer could be easily found "in the second link of a google search", but that was far from being the case. We would drown in false positives.

  3. 99% of the questions here do not include previous research. If we wanted to enforce previous research objectively, we would end up closing 99% of past and future questions.

  4. Inside that majority, we have countless gems of questions, answers, and discussions. To me it is clear that including previous research is not needed for having an excellent exchange, for having great questions, answers, and discussions.

  5. That specific previous research would be relevant to that specific asker only. The previous research information can be useless for other users. For them, including previous research can be detrimental, can over-complicate an otherwise simple and/or elegant question. They want to know the answer to the question, not what the asker has researched about it, or if he/she did previous research.

  6. Potentially lazy questions can already be punished through lack of answers, downvotes, and comments by the users that think it was lazy. Leaving the question open makes no difference, and it leaves the door open for people who don't think the question is lazy to answer and discuss it.

  7. Even if the answer to a question can be found somewhere else (and maybe labeled as "lazy" because of it), the opportunity is open for this community to improve on the available answers. When I find answers to a question in google, and I find a Stack Exchange entry, that's the first place I'll go to for most subjects (if not all!), I know it most likely has what I'm looking for. The SE system helps construct very good answers, potentially many different answers, ordered by votes, with comments on potential mistakes and other things worth noting.

  8. We are supposed to be one of those places that people use to research stuff! We are a source of answers to that research. We being the reason to do research, rather than the research source, makes no sense to me.

  • 5
    I agree. You downvote questions you don't like, you don't vote to close them. This question was solidly on topic and we do not have research requirements here; we've answered questions as simple as "What is a note?". Normally it would be verboten but, because the votes were so egregiously out of line, I have cleared them by closing the question and reopening it.
    – user28
    Feb 7, 2015 at 16:25

Here's an idea:

Lack of previous research is a sufficient reason for closing, but does not mandate closing (and on this site it is much less likely to be invoked than on other SE sites).

On SO this criterion is imposed to provide easy justification for closing the "give me the codez" questions where the asker is looking to be spoon fed the answer without having made any effort towards solving the problem. I don't think that it is unreasonable to close this type of question solely on this basis, but these types of questions are very rare here.

All potential examples that I can think of where "insufficient research" would apply, could also be closed under "analysis of specific works", but maybe there will be cases...

  • I'm not sure I understand the technical side of your first sentence. What is the difference betwen "close reason" and "close mandate"?
    – yo'
    Feb 14, 2015 at 1:03
  • 1
    Which benefits would that idea bring? As Matthew Read said in my answer, we do not have research requirements here and we've answered questions as simple as "what is a note?". What problem are you trying to solve with this? I see no benefits, and countless potential issues. Feb 14, 2015 at 4:39

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