The reason I would suggest that an askers knowledge of terminology should be taken into consideration is that if by research effort we mean looking something up on the internet before asking a question, then a person's knowledge of terminology can actually have a impact on what he/she/they can find in a search.

If for example a question could be quickly answered by looking up atoms or molecules, but the asker did not use the words "atoms", or "molecules" in the post then I think it would be possible that the asker has heard of neither, and "atoms" and "molecules" wouldn't be likely to just pop into someone's mind as something to look up if someone had never heard of them. I could imagine person searching, "smallest pieces of stuff," if he/she hadn't heard of atoms or molecules but depending on what the asker asked it could be difficult to guess what he/she/they would think to use in a search and some keywords an asker might think to use in a search may not have the words, "atoms" or "molecules" come up in a search.

I think in general a lot of us probably think in terms of what keywords we would personally use in a search, as we take for granted what terms we know and it can sometimes be difficult to guess what words someone would use in a search if he/she/they didn't know the the terms we know. I think for this reason someone who isn't as familiar with physics terms could in some cases do a thorough search using words he/she knows or can think of and still give the impression of little research effort to someone who knows a lot of terminology in physics.

So if an asker doesn't use a given term in a question, should we take into consideration that the person might be unfamiliar with the word and so unable to use it in a search?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ What, exactly, does "taking into consideration" mean here? $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Sep 17, 2021 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


The familiarity of an OP with the terminology should not enter into anything.

The broader objective of the site is not so much to provide answers to questions of individuals, but to provide answers that are useful beyond the OP to viewers at large.

As a result, I make no accommodation for poor use of terminology in questions (or answers): since the terminology is poor, such questions by definition they will not reach much beyond the OP and will not be much useful to anyone beyond the OP.

It is always possible to edit the contents from comments or answers, and thus reverse the effect of negative actions such as downvotes or votes to close if the edit is useful.

I feel very strongly that allowing poorly researched question will result in a decrease in the quality of the site as a whole.

  • $\begingroup$ Poor terminology will most likely be closed as "needing more clarity" anyway. I'm still wrestling with the whole "poorly researched" idea though. There are plenty of questions here that the OP could have found answers to by looking elsewhere; certainly I didn't learn all of my physics from PSE. I just feel like "poorly researched" is subjective, and I've seen questions/askers get rejected on this basis even though it was a good question. $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2021 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist I get your point and it is subjective. The community is rather permissive (and I don’t mind this) but in some cases the answers are so elementary that it shocks the mind to answer them. The saving grace it that 5 people have to agree for the question to be closed for that reason, even if “insufficient effort” is often the first of many symptoms. $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2021 at 22:53
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    $\begingroup$ @BioPhysicist Some users fail to appreciate that this is not a answering service for distressed students, and that writing a good question is actually quite hard. $\endgroup$ Sep 18, 2021 at 22:54

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