In the FAQ it is said that "do my homework" questions are not welcome on physics.stackexchange. So far I was sure that I know what are that questions:

  1. Formulation of some non-conceptual problem: "given A, find B"
  2. No attempts to solve the problem or understand the conditions are shown in the post.
  3. The question is "what is B?"

I have flagged 4 questions using these criteria. The flags for two questions have been declined. These questions got some up-votes and answers:

  1. What would be pressure of 1 kg of photon gas at room temperature put in a volume of 1 liter? - looks like it was just copied from some textbook without any editions. Criteria: 1, 2 and 3.
  2. Rolling resistance and static friction - some useless "I'm confused" introduction and an exercise from another textbook. Criteria: 1 and 3 for sure. An attempt to avoid criterion 2 (IMHO, not successful).

In my opinion these questions are not worth neither the up-votes nor the good answers they got.

Something is wrong for sure in my criteria since those questions are neither edited nor closed.
What is wrong? What are the correct criteria?


1 Answer 1

  1. I wasn't the one who declined that flag, so I can't give you the full story, but that question was asked by a user who has contributed many answers and non-homework questions to the site, and who presumably knows our policies on homework well enough to tag a question as homework if the tag does indeed apply. With that in mind, I elected to give the user the benefit of the doubt and not close it for being a "do-my-homework" question (even though it admittedly does look like one). That may have been a mistake. If so, it is at least an isolated incident. If you flag similar questions in the future, it's unlikely those flags will be declined.

  2. I don't agree that this problem meets criterion #1. Yes, the question could be better explained, but the poster is looking for an explanation of the underlying concept, namely the difference between the causes of rolling and static friction, and is merely posting the questions about FBDs and forces as a way to elucidate that difference.

Honestly, I think you have the right criteria in mind, you just happened to get unlucky in flagging a couple of borderline cases. But also wait to see what the other moderators have to say, if anything.


  • In the past I've closed a lot of do-my-homework questions as "off topic," but lately I tend to use "too localized" more so as not to give out the automatic downvote (which tends to discourage new users).
  • For future reference, if a question is essentially conceptual but just seems to have a few too many details, enough that it piques your "homework question sense" (as I suppose was the case in example #2 in your question), one thing you can do is edit out the specific details and make the question a little more generic, rather than flagging it.

(If you're concerned about your flag weight, (1) don't be, nobody cares around here ;-) (2) as far as I'm concerned you can flag a couple things for nonsense reasons and I'll mark them valid.)

  • $\begingroup$ There is no explicit conceptual question in example #2 and almost no "material" to retrieve the implicit questions from. It consists of details causing "homework question feeling" a little less than completely. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 8, 2012 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ Example #2 do meet criterion #1 since it includes text of some exercise. It is not bad at all, but only if the exercise is an illustration for the question (not the question itself, see criterion #3). $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 8, 2012 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ The conceptual question in example 2 is essentially "What is the difference between rolling friction and static friction on a wheel?" And it is sometimes necessary to invent example problems to clarify a question, and these may come off sounding homework-like. Of course, if you find an exercise in a textbook or homework assignment somewhere which includes the exact same questions posted in that question, then that's a whole different story. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 6:37

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