I gave a partial answer to a homework questions here (now deleted; screenshots: question, answer) and was firmly told in comments that even partial answers to homework questions are not allowed. Is that correct ? As far as I can see, the guidelines on homework questions only prohibits complete answers.

Follow up question: if any answer at all to a homework question is inappropriate, why do we have a "homework-and-exercises" tag ?

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    $\begingroup$ If at least there was an effort by the OP to discuss how this question is conceptually different from other similar on this site... Answering this kind of question is encouraging this kind of question. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ 5 years late, but FWIW, the linked guidelines does not ban only complete answers, it very clearly states complete or near-complete answers will (likely) be temporarily deleted (and it has been written this way since 2011!). $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Apr 20 at 12:33

4 Answers 4


This depends on the quality of the question, I should think. If it only consists of text that is obviously a dump from a homework assignment (or other similar set-piece, like a textbook exercise, say) with no attempt from the OP to engage with the material or ask a substantial question beyond "do my work for me plz" (even if it is tempered with something like this particular OP's comment "Tips only.. Not the solution", which effectively reads "do my wokr fr me plz, but only some of itplz"), then please do not answer.

Giving any answers to those questions simply encourages that user, and any others that see those answers, to post the type of no-effort help-vampire extremely-low-quality bottom-of-the-barrel questions that really harm the average level of questions on the site. If that's the type of site you want to post answers in, then there's plenty of such venues linked in this thread that will happily enlist your efforts to feed the help vampires. On this site, we don't want those questions, and we close them so that they don't get answers.

There is also a long-standing policy that if someone posts a full answer to a homework question (i.e. not just tips) then that does get summarily deleted (potentially only temporarily) by moderators. This is not what's happening with your answer: it is not getting deleted, and it is still currently standing. The only thing that you're getting is people in the comments politely asking you not to engage in behaviours which harm the site's quality.

As for your follow-up question: it is possible to ask on-topic homework questions; for a sampling, see this list of open upvoted homework-tagged threads - and compare it with the awful stuff you get by searching for closed, unanswered, negative-score homework-tagged questions. Most of the questions, by number, that we get which fit the homework-and-exercises tag description are off-topic, and they are closed and deleted as promptly as the review queue allows (usually within one or two days to closure, then deleted by the roomba at about the nine-day mark). The tag exists for the minority of such questions which are on-topic, and which do exist.

But please do not answer the off-topic ones.

Finally, note what ultimately happened to the question, as documented in this screenshot ─ it was removed by the roomba, under the following criterion:

  1. The system will automatically delete closed, unlocked questions with zero or negative score having no positively scored or accepted answers or pending reopen votes, that were closed for any reason other than duplicate nine or more days ago and haven't been edited in the past nine days. (RemoveAbandonedClosed)

This type of cleanup can only happen if no answers have positive scores, so that downvotes on the answers are also a way to ensure that the system handles this type of off-topic question appropriately.


I, like I suspect most long time members of the site, have rather lost the will to live when it comes to discussion of the homework policy and my enthusiasm for reopening the issue is on the limited side. So let me turn your question back to you:

First let's look at the question you answered:

How can I determine, the height they meet, the time they meet and the velocities of each when they meet. Can anyone give me some tips? Thank you

An object thrown vertical upwards with initial Velocity of 40m/s and 2 seconds later, another object is thrown with the same Velocity.

My challenge to you is:

Do you want to see more questions like this?

because if you provide helpful answers you will see more questions like this.

My view is that questions like the above do not make the Physics SE a better place and they should not be answered, not even partially, because that just encourages posting of such questions. Your views may differ of course. All I would ask is that you consider the long term consequences of your answers.

I'm delighted to answer questions like this in a chat room, and indeed we have a chat room specifically intended for just this purpose. It's nice to feel helpful and nicer still when students come back and thank you for helping get them through their exams. So I'm not saying don't help with this sort of question. I'm just saying don't do it on the Physics SE site.

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    $\begingroup$ "my enthusiasm for reopening the issue is on the limited side" - c'mon, John, you're not in Britain, you're in an international context, the usual euphemisms don't work here. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ Translations are available from the author on request $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ I request a translation of that comment from British English into Foreigner English. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 13:25
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    $\begingroup$ I believe I understand what John is saying here. My translation is "Rule 1 - thou shalt not ask questions about the Rules". I have got the message. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf61
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 14:01
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    $\begingroup$ @gandalf61 Well, other rules are fine to ask about. Just not this one. Please, for the love of all things, please not this one. (I can actually think of a few others that would make me pull out all my hair and teeth to relitigate or see another "But why???!?!?!?!" about... I won't mention them here though). $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ @gandalf61 I don't think challenging the rules is bad. Indeed your question is good because it will clarify how the current consensus is applied in practice. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 22, 2019 at 21:40
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    $\begingroup$ I would keep in mind the "be gentle with new users" who are not able to enter chat rooms, or even know about chat rooms. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 3:59
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is John, and I know this was written pre-pandemic, that these days you might be helping them WITH their exam. $\endgroup$
    – ProfRob
    Commented Apr 24 at 11:16

When we close homework-like questions, we sometimes invite the askers to rephrase them as conceptual questions.

I think that's good guidance for answers to homework-like questions, too. And your answer isn't an answer about kinematics or conservation of energy; your answer is some algebra. That's how confused beginners approach physics, but that's not what doing real physics is like.

A partial answer that explained conceptually how to attack that kind of problem would probably be welcome. But the asker of that question hasn't given any indication of what their conceptual problem is, so writing a targeted conceptual answer would be a serious challenge.


While homework questions are not allowed, there is a while until they get their closure. In this time, you can answer them, and the closure does not delete your already posted answer.

Only the deletion of the homework question deletes also your answer with it.

On this reason, actually you can answer homework questions, but only if you are quick. Giving at least a partial answer very quickly helps in this sense a lot.

This is why might it be useful, if you see a question which will be likely closed, if you quickly post an answer chunk, and delete it. Then you can work on your own, self-deleted answer in relative safety, without being harassed by the deletionists.

After you are ready and the post is closed, you can simply undelete your answer.

The only workaround for that if a yet more hardliner kill-em-all content policy arrives, it would be bad in the short-term, but useful on the long-term (higher level decision makers might consider to give a shorter leash to the moderation - they embrace elitism but not the site-suicide).

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    $\begingroup$ ... you can simply undelete your answer. which then bumps it to the top of the Home page for full viewership of everyone, including moderators, who can then freely DV and VTD. How about we stick with not circumventing site policy & just allow blatantly off-topic questions remain closed & unanswered. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Commented Apr 20 at 12:28
  • $\begingroup$ Using a deleted answer to circumvent the community's decision on question closure is an abuse of the system. Don't do it, please. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Commented Jun 2 at 11:54
  • $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos That is right. But you know, there are things non-trivially connected here. About 8 years ago I tried to argument in various meta comment-chats, increasing the popularity of the site network is our collective group interest. It was like trying to shot an abrams tank with an arrow. The general attitude of the communities is that they do not even understand, why the visitor count would be an argument. I think, that was the point as I started to understand, things are much "deeper" here as I could ever imagine. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Jun 2 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ @rob Right. But you know, sometimes it happens that the question is closed while I am writing the answer. Then, that answer is lost. This part of the system is very obviously unfair and hostile, and I can not really see a serious moral problem by trying to gaming with it. Although typically I solve this problem by posting a small, partial answer quickly, what I already can extend even after the closure of the question. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Jun 2 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ @rob There is another important problem. I am since 12 years on the stack exchange and I think I have some... intuitive ideas, how things and other people are working. In my opinion, a significant part of the power users of the sites simply get itchy from that other users collect reputation. They have some irrational urge to prevent other users from collecting rep. And they do all possible to prevent it, including post down-close-del votes without a real reason. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Jun 2 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ If your partial answer answers the question, that's okay. But in that case, you should leave it up, rather than having your answer disappear and reappear. You can always save drafts elsewhere, such as in a text editor on your own computer, or in the Meta sandbox, or on stackedit.io. And if a good question has been closed, and has failed one or more reopen reviews, you might consider re-asking the question yourself (giving appropriate credit) in a way so that its fit with our community is clearer, and including your answer there. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Commented Jun 3 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ @rob O.k. There is no reason for the deletion-edit-undel sequence if I already could post the answer. Extending answers is okay, even below closed questions, afaik. $\endgroup$
    – peterh
    Commented Jun 3 at 0:32

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