# What does conceptual mean?

I've told to come here by another user after my question was put on hold a few days ago for being "off-topic".

What does "conceptual" mean? It's a word I see floating around a lot on this site and it's never explained. Ever. I asked the aforementioned user what it meant and they directed me here without actually giving me an answer.

• At a general level, it means we are happy to try and help you understand physics, but we aren't happy at all to solve specific problems for you. No, it is not 'vague hogwash' and you certainly aren't helping yourself by throwing words like that around. – Jon Custer Nov 16 '18 at 19:56
• I gotta be honest, suggesting that something we deliberately wrote into the close reason may be "a load of vague hogwash" could turn some people off from answering your question. But in any case, I'll come back and post an answer when I have time, if nobody else has done so first. – David Z Nov 16 '18 at 22:16
• Have you read physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/714? It's described quite clearly there. – user191954 Nov 17 '18 at 3:35
• @Jon Custer You aren't happy to help solve problems? So what's the point of the homework tag then? – AustereTiger Nov 17 '18 at 22:33
• @Chair No, I haven't read that. If I had, I probably wouldn't be posting about what it means. – AustereTiger Nov 17 '18 at 22:34
• Why is this site so against answering homework questions? There was no one particular concept I was struggling with in my question. I wasn't asking for the solution, if you cared to actually read it. I asked "Would I be able to use this?" basically. Hell, I checked over it before I posted it like 3 times because I know how anal this site is but it still got pulled up as being "off-topic". I'm just gonna go to another forum site and ask it. Had enough. – AustereTiger Nov 17 '18 at 22:39
• If we allow homework questions, this site immediately becomes almost nothing but homework questions. Most professional physicists are well past the point where answering homework questions is of interest to them. We don't want to drive away the site's top contributors just to be yet another homework help site. – Chris Nov 17 '18 at 23:23
• I’m quite happy to solve problems. My own problems. I did my homework and didn’t try to farm it out to others. – Jon Custer Nov 18 '18 at 0:53
• The comment on your main post clearly says "read the meta post, then ask". If you haven't bothered to read that, you have no right to say it's vague gibberish. – user191954 Nov 18 '18 at 3:10
• But guy, how many people are "professional physicists"? You're missing the point. How do people get to that stage? How many people on this site are professionals in what they do? My bet is very little. If they're interested in furthering the study of their subject, they should be more than happy to answer questions about said subject. – AustereTiger Nov 18 '18 at 17:28
• @AustereTiger about 4400 are closed and undeleted. There are 10,500 that are not closed. The data is skewed against the deleted content, but 10k rep members Tools says the HW reason accounts for about 40% of all closures the last 30 days at 430 total closed questions, unknown how many had the tag. – Kyle Kanos Nov 19 '18 at 11:06
• FWIW, physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/714 is our highest-scored meta post and is linked in a large number of other meta posts, so it would have been nice if you had done some relevant research before asking a meta question like "What's conceptual?" and attacking policies. If you like, you could add the specific-question tag and rephrase your question more positively and constructively to reflect that you would like explanations about why your question is off topic (and even request reopening since you have <3k rep); that has been done several times before and is often well-received. – user191954 Nov 19 '18 at 13:11
• With due apologies for the unilateral action - I really don't think that this is a duplicate. There's a lot to criticize here in AustereTiger's complete disregard to reading the site policies before going on to rudely dismiss and criticize things s/he hadn't even attempted to understand, despite explicit pointers to go and read $-$ but the way to deal with those flaws is to downvote. Or can the close-voters explain why they think that this is an exact duplicate? – Emilio Pisanty Nov 20 '18 at 18:03
• @EmilioPisanty I'll take a stab at it; I cast that first VtC once OP said they hadn't read the homework policy. If OP had shown some research and talked about a doubt regarding the complete policy, that would be a different matter; we can be sure that the duplicate answers OP's question here, based on their reaction. The question is "what counts as conceptual?" The linked post revolves around that point precisely. All the important points are there (for example, that the question must be useful to future visitors, and it should be 'how does this concept work?' rather than 'what next?').(...) – user191954 Nov 20 '18 at 18:20
• (...) My last comment was intended to suggest changes which would IMO make this different from the duplicate. I probably didn't interpret this question in the way you did: your answer discussed a lot about OP's reaction and the scope for improving the main question, but I see little in the question which specifically invites that: there's but a brief mention that OP had a question closed, after which there's a complete focus on the notion of 'conceptual questions'. – user191954 Nov 20 '18 at 18:20

I'm sympathetic to your question, which is of relatively high quality and basically sits on the borderline between on- and off-topic, but I do think that it should be closed.

Your question starts off quite well, and it sets up a nice conceptual framework about the configuration you're considering. However, in the end, the core of the question itself is

From here, I don't know. I need to find some particular solution of the original equation. Can I assume a solution of the form $$Ce^{-at}$$ and would it be possible to do this with the sub-critical damping case instead of the one I've used? The homogeneous solution would then be different.

and that basically reads "please solve the rest for me", and that's just the type of homework-help that's off-topic here. This is particularly the case because you have a very obvious lead for a solution, and you very clearly have the ability to follow that lead further, but your question as written just refuses to do that work and hopes for others to chip in. (That may not be how you saw it as you were writing it down, but that's what's written.) From this juncture, we would expect a 'conceptual' question to follow that lead and then, if it didn't work, to say something like

I tried to follow on the obvious lead [i.e., assuming a solution of the form $$Ce^{-at}$$] but it gave me X and that doesn't work because of Y and Z. Why does that happen?

A few extra points that fall out of your responses in the comments:

• The closure reason has an explicit link to the homework guidelines, which you were prompted to read multiple times. Writing dismissive statements about the site guidelines without having read them is not a particularly positive way to start.

• How many people on this site are professionals in what they do? My bet is very little.

You'd be surprised, particularly if you select on the people who answer questions instead of ask them (and even more if you weigh by answers written, i.e. if you instead asked "how many answers on this site are written by people who are professionals in what they do?"). The precise answer depends on the precise way you phrase the question, and there's a fuzzy edge with a lot of people who haven't disclosed either way, but a good initial answer is "a substantial fraction". It's what keeps the answer quality high, and we're simply not going to do things that risk turning that population away.

• If they're interested in furthering the study of their subject, they should be more than happy to answer questions about said subject.

We are. But we don't do this type of "do my work for me" question.

• how does [...] get to be a moderator?

As of this writing there's six community moderators, who are easily identifiable by a ♦ after their username. (That's also the case for Stack Exchange employees, who don't intervene in this type of discussion unless it turns very sour.) Everyone else that's doing moderation on Stack Exchange is just a regular user and they've earned their moderation privileges by dint of providing high-quality content.

• What's the point of the homework tag if you won't answer homework questions?

Partly, the homework tag serves an administrative purpose so that bad homework questions can be identified and closed more quickly and easily before they cause active harm to the site.

But there are also a bunch of on-topic questions that require that tag. To see a sample, try this search for non-closed homework-and-exercise questions with score $$\geq$$ 3.

• I'm just gonna go to another forum site and ask it. Had enough.

I agree that this is a good idea :-). Your question demonstrates that you're able to write thoughtful, high-quality questions, and I look forward to reading some of them in the future if you decide to post them, but I would indeed advise you to keep it to non-homework questions for some time, while you get more experience with the site and see which questions fall on which side of the line.