We get a lot of questions on this site whose titles are not written as questions. Recent examples include
- I don't know how to start with this exercise
- Finding tension in strings
- List of international, English language physics grad programs
- Schrodinger Equation - History
and so on. In and of itself, this is fine; after all, some of these are perfectly good titles. But some of them are not. And I've been getting the sense that on this site, the titles written as questions often tend to be better than the ones that are not.
Improving the quality of question titles is a good initiative that can boost the overall quality of our site. And if title quality really is correlated to asking a question, one way we can do that is by encouraging posters, especially new posters, to pose their titles as questions. I think it's good for two reasons:
- Titles in question form tend to be more focused on what the person actually wants to know. You get a specific sense of what the question is about by looking at a question title, rather than just a vague sense of what topic is involved.
- Perhaps more importantly, we get a fair number of homework questions here, and in several of those cases the poster hasn't put in even the bare minimum of effort to make the question conceptual, as required by our homework policy. Almost invariably, the titles of these questions are simple statements, like the first couple examples in the list above.1 I believe that in the process of figuring out how to phrase their title as a question, the people who post these sorts of questions will put in some thought that will help them write a better question.
I would like to see us get into the habit of phrasing the titles to our own posts as questions, when we can do so without sacrificing quality. Similarly, let's edit the titles of questions by new posters to also be questions, again when we can do so without sacrificing quality. If we establish a consistent pattern of titling posts with questions, it will encourage new posters to follow that trend when posting their own questions, which hopefully leads to better title quality overall.
- I'm not saying "all titles should be questions." As I mentioned above, there are perfectly valid question titles which are not questions.
- I'm also not saying that we should edit titles to be questions just for the sake of making them questions. After all, editing "I don't know how to do this problem" into "How do I do this problem?" does nothing to improve the quality of the title, and remember, title quality is what it's all about. But starting with "I don't know how to do this problem," given the choice between "Period of a pendulum" and "What's the formula for period of a pendulum?", I'd choose the latter. It shows exactly what the poster is really asking.
Do you agree? I'm not only posting this to encourage people to adopt this guideline but also looking for feedback.
And yes, I do realize the irony of titling a question about titling questions with questions with a statement :-P Just go with it.
1There is a separate issue as to whether those questions demonstrate the bare minimum of effort required to meet our policy. The issue of whether those questions should be closed is a separate one that I would be happy to discuss if anyone has input.