# Did my question deserve a hold?

Background: I've been using several SE sites for several years now. I am used to their systems and strict rules, respect them, and try to obey as much as possible. However I do not understand this on-hold one of my posts got.

Lyman and Balmer series

This is partly a factual physics question. My book did not explain this topic with enough detail for me to be able to make this out on my own. This is not a numerical question. I don't have to do any maths here. So what "effort" do you want me to show?

I also don't understand how my question is NOT "useful to the broader community, and to future users". It certainly contains a proper question plus a proper detailed answer. This site didn't have this question before, now it does.

I actually think the close gang may have been premature on this one. Probably because you were explicit about the question coming from a text (kudos for openness, but it worked against you here).

However, in my (unofficial) opinion the spirit of the homework-like policy that is currently in force does not just mean that questions not actually coming from homework can be closed but also that actual homework questions can get a pass when they conform to the 'ask about a concept' rule.

Here we have a question that is about the physics by which spectra get generated. (And I have to say that the way the problem is framed in the textbook version is too stark and may be contributing to the confusion here.)

That said, "I've been successful on other sites' is only so helpful because inside a large overarching framework detailed rules vary a lot from site to site. In particular Physics is rather different from some other sites in our expectation for questions that look like exercises for the student: just showing effort isn't enough (it is necessary, but not sufficient). This causes a lot of initial confusions for users who come it thinking that the rules on [math.se], for instance, are universal.

• I think the only thing wrong with the v1 post is that it reads way too much like a "solve this for me" even though the root of the problem is purely conceptual. Personally, I think the lack of an actual question was the issue here. The textbook used the phrase "Explain why.", and the OP ended with "Please explain the above phenomenon."; neither of which were an actual question, but seem more like requests for a solution. It's semantics; but the attitude of the post feels different. I get the feeling users here are pretty jaded towards the "Solve this for me." wording. – JMac Nov 3 '17 at 20:52
• Ok, thanks for the reopen. Though, can you revive the deleted answer? – Gaurang Tandon Nov 4 '17 at 6:41

I'm popping in a little late here since I only noticed this post just now. Here's the deal: in your original post you identified

Lyman series for hydrogen atom is available for both absorption and emission, but the Balmer series is only available for emission. Explain why.

as a textbook question. The mere fact that your question includes a textbook question is fine, but according to our homework policy, "We expect you to narrow down the problem to the particular concept that's giving you trouble and ask about that specifically." You haven't done that. All you did was post your textbook question and ask us to answer it. That's off topic, and that's why your question was put on hold.

I know you've been saying that you have no idea where to start, but questions like that aren't what we handle on this site. When you have no idea where to start on a problem, the place to go is to your teacher, your fellow students, to your textbook, or to a dedicated homework help site. However, when you have worked out how to start but there's some relatively small conceptual issue that is holding you up from making progress, that's when you can ask here.

Your question is asking us to answer a problem for you. That is, by our definitions, a homework-like question that is explicitly off topic. The link in the close banner explains this in much detail.

Your recent edits to explain that it's not a homework problem assigned by the professor haven't changed the nature of your question, hence I voted to leave it closed.

I'd be willing to vote to reopen if you made the question less 'do my work for me' and more 'my understanding of the scenario is $x$, but that doesn't seem to address $y$. Can someone explain why $y$ is the case?' (with some details and not just subjects/topics thrown in there). That way it shows what you're thinking and (likely) what you're missing.

• "my understanding of the scenario is xx, but that doesn't seem to address yy." Yes, I know how that works. Well, it's a factual question. What can I say more than that I do not at all how to proceed. I was only taught how to calculate atomic spectral line wavelengths, their names, and the Bohr model. I do not have any basic knowledge of this particular question's (that I had posted) concept to be able to have my personal understanding of it. What understanding do I state in such a case? – Gaurang Tandon Nov 3 '17 at 15:02
• I do understand the question. However, it's the first time I ever came across such a question, and that I haven't been taught anything so that 1) I could be able to answer it directly 2) could've thought the way it works. The answer assisted me beautifully, but apparently, it has now been deleted... – Gaurang Tandon Nov 3 '17 at 15:07
• @GaurangTandon we expect users to have done some due diligence in trying to find answers. I'm sorry that your education this far is insufficient, but that needs to be bright up with your instructor and not us. When/if you have further questions from his/her response, you can bring it here. – Kyle Kanos Nov 3 '17 at 15:31
• I obviously did ask the professor, he just told me not to mess with "higher physics" (which, as it turned out, was pretty easily explained in that answer). Obviously, I searched the internet - but there were no answers. I don't understand what I can do more in showing "some due diligence in trying to find answers". But, fair enough. I will not repeat my mistake again. – Gaurang Tandon Nov 3 '17 at 15:38
• @GaurangTandon it's not obvious you asked the professor, you only stated that they didn't teach it. And due diligence could be as simple a explaining what you know about the situation, even if you're grasping at straws; it doesn't need to be a list of resources you've checked. – Kyle Kanos Nov 3 '17 at 15:45
• @GaurangTandon for the most part, I agree with Kyle (although I am more optimistic than him in that I voted to reopen while he did not): your question needs some editing. You need to show some prior research and some effort to work through the problem yourself, and you have to make it look less like a homework question and more like a conceptual one on its own. (FWIW, heather fixed some of these issues, so you should thank her) – AccidentalFourierTransform Nov 3 '17 at 16:28
• @AccidentalFourierTransform imo, Heather again exceeded what I'd consider normal editing with this post. I have half a mind to roll it back because it's too radical an edit. – Kyle Kanos Nov 3 '17 at 16:41
• @KyleKanos I'm not sure rolling it back would be the best option, otherwise we might end up with people rolling it back back and forth. I, for one, think that the edit goes in the right direction. In any case, I'd wait and see what OP thinks about the edit. – AccidentalFourierTransform Nov 3 '17 at 16:49
• Honestly, heather's edits don't seem to change the core of the question. The problem in my eyes was that the original wording never asked an actual question, it stated requests such as "Explain why." and "Please explain the above phenomenon." By rephrasing it as a question, they will still get what was requested; but it now fits the format of the site. The content is essentially the same, but useless information and the tone of the post was adjusted to actually fit within the sites boundaries. – JMac Nov 3 '17 at 20:57
• Ok, thanks everyone for valuable input. I appreciate it! – Gaurang Tandon Nov 4 '17 at 6:42

If we focus on the content rather than the form, your question is certainly conceptual and useful to a broader community. I voted to reopen accordingly.

At the risk of being accused of gaming the system, I suggest you to edit it to make it look less like a homework question (even if it actually is), and more like something you are wondering yourself. To complement this, do some research about the topic and make it clear you tried to come up with the solution before posting the question here. Otherwise, it would still be off-topic on grounds of insufficient prior research. Good luck.

• Thanks for the valuable input :) Actually these are "self-practice questions" in my book (as my book calls it). They're not given "homework" by our professor, and I was expanding my knowledge by solving them. I'll edit accordingly. – Gaurang Tandon Nov 3 '17 at 14:00
• Hi @GaurangTandon, I'm glad I could help. Please do note that in this community, "homework question" does not necessarily include questions that correspond to homework assignments in the strict sense. We use the word "homework" in a broader sense: in general, any exercise that is a potential homework question falls into the category of homework-and-exercises and, as such, should comply with the corresponding policy. Whether the question reflects an actual assignment is irrelevant. – AccidentalFourierTransform Nov 3 '17 at 14:03
• Interesting, I always thought "homework" meant "home work" i.e. work that had to be done at home by students in their evenings, assigned by their professors in mornings. I believe that's what it's supposed to mean as well but anyway. Good to know a new thing. Thanks! – Gaurang Tandon Nov 3 '17 at 14:13
• Technically we use the phrase "homework-like" for that reason - not just homework problems, but also questions of a similar nature to what might be given as homework. (We haven't agreed on a better way of describing those questions.) – David Z Nov 5 '17 at 20:33