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Almost every time I ask for a specific concept using an example in a book, my post keeps getting closed. I didn't want for an answer to the specific problem or get my answer checked, but only to understand certain concepts. However, the only answer I get is the infamous "Homework are considered off-topic here, particularly when asking about specific computations instead of underlying physics concepts".

The problem is I'm not sure what I do wrong. I guess I keep repeating the same mistake, but I'm not sure to understand. I thought that by giving the book and the page could place a certain context. Furthermore, since I can't reach any moderator and I would like to fix this problem, the only place I found to find an answer is here, and to be honest I don't know if this is the right place.

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    $\begingroup$ The canonical is How do I ask homework questions on Physics Stack Exchange?, with a summary in the tag wiki. "A 'homework question' is any question whose value lies in helping you understand the method by which the question can be solved, rather than getting the answer itself." $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2022 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ Looking at your profile, you've got 7 questions and 6 of them are asking either (a) whether a computation you've done is right or (b) how to do a specific computation. Have you considered asking a classmate about the work? Or ask your professor for some time to go over the material during their schedule office hours? $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Nov 12, 2022 at 20:11
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos I think sometime I'm so confuse about a concept that I try to give a specific example to make things a little bit more comprehensible for everyone who's trying to help. I mean I don't know how certain concepts works, but I'm not even sure what I don't understand. Am I clear? $\endgroup$ Nov 12, 2022 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ @happypaticle I understand, but why isn't your classmates or your professor(s) an option for help? $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Nov 12, 2022 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ One important purpose of the homework-and-exercises tag is to allow members who don’t want to see those kinds of questions to filter them out. $\endgroup$
    – Ghoster
    Nov 13, 2022 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ To pick up on @KyleKanos‘s point: do you think the site is enriched by asking people to hunt down your specific error in your specific problem? Have you checked physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/714/36194 or this: physics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/9080/36194 $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2022 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos Your argument about classmates and professors would be equally applicable to almost every question in PSE, even the most conceptual. From my point of view, there are too many questions, including a few by the OP, closed as homework or homework-like, that are not in the class of check-my-calculations or give-me-the-result. I think our community should check more carefully how the written policy about homework is implemented. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2022 at 6:59
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    $\begingroup$ @GiorgioP Your argument about classmates and professors would be equally applicable to almost every question in PSE, even the most conceptual Yes, I'm aware, so isn't much of a "gotcha" moment you think it is. Not every question is answerable in this venue, which topicality is decided by the community, but classmates & faculty are always a viable source of information. $\endgroup$
    – Kyle Kanos
    Nov 13, 2022 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ @GiorgioP moreover a lot of the questions (at least as they are formulated now) from this OP are easily answered by classmates. Frankly it’s as if the OP expects this site to be an answering service. It’s not too much to ask for some elementary effort on the part of any poster if the poster expects an effort from answerers. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2022 at 20:55
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    $\begingroup$ @ZeroTheHero, I am afraid I do not agree with your point of view. This site policy is explicitly stated, and should not be interpreted according to personal points of view. In particular, there is no mention, in the policy of this site, about the minimum complexity a question must have to be considered for an answer. Moreover, assuming that people always have professors or classmates around is unjustified. Not only students may be interested in Physics. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2022 at 23:20
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    $\begingroup$ @GiorgioP well we must agree to disagree then. I do think that, while not explicit, this physics.meta.stackexchange.com/a/9080/36194 captures the spirit of things. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2022 at 23:40
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be funny if this post got closed 😂 $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2022 at 17:37

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I think this post emphasizes, once more, a real problem of PSE: some inconsistency between the stated policy of the site and how it is applied in practice.

The stated policy says

"A 'homework question' is any question whose value lies in helping you understand the method by which the question can be solved, rather than getting the answer itself."

Reading such a statement and taking into account the stress on conceptual questions, one would be induced to think that a question not asking for hints on a mathematical step or not confined to a specific exercise but focused on the right use of concepts would be acceptable.

In practice, this is not the case. I think a recent example is this question closed today as homework-like and check-my-work question. The question explicitly mentions its origin from an exercise in Pathria's Statistical Mechanix textbook. However, whatever its origin, I see a question on the issue of applying a formula thought valid for distinguishable particles to a case where no mention of distinguishability was present. In my opinion, the only possible answer to this question would address the method by which the question can be solved rather than getting the answer itself. Thus, perfectly in line with the policy statement, and useful for more persons than the OP. Instead, it was closed.

I am using this question as an example. Therefore, I would not like to discuss the motivations for its closure in detail. Certainly who voted for its closure thought it was the right thing to do. Nevertheless, as a member of this community, I would have a hard time explaining to a newcomer the exact reason this question infringed the stated policy of the site.

Without clear evidence of coherence between the stated policy and the practice, I see the risk of establishing on this site a tendency I often saw in forums about Physics. The community of the most experienced users unconsciously tends to adapt the threshold for acceptable questions to its increasing standards of quality. I think that some reflections on such a potential risk would be useful for keeping the PSE site an open and inclusive community.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree fully. To help improve this issue, I encourage any users with a similar opinion to simply ask, on a question with questionable close votes, for such voters to explain to OP what the issue is & how the question can be improved. We are here to help users improve their understanding of physics, or if they are new to the site, then to help them adhere to the site's standards so that they become valuable contributing members. In contrast, closure or downvoting without explanation is the type of negative reinforcement that does not allow for improvement & just confuses or discourages users. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2022 at 12:16
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    $\begingroup$ e.g. just leave the comment "Can closer voters & downvoters please explain to OP any issue with his question before voting? Thank you." $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2022 at 12:18
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    $\begingroup$ @doublefelix It would be a good practice indeed. The only problem I see is that the closers probably won't see the comment, and, as far as I know, only one of them could be reached by a "@user" tag. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2022 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ When I have left this type of comment on questionably closed/downvoted posts, the question usually started to get re-upvoted, and future close votes were less likely. But this depends on the question... for questions which were actually not good for the site, I've had it turn into a discussion before and have also ended up agreeing with the close voter depending on the circumstance. I think it just makes people think twice and often makes it more understandable to OP. In the end you are right that to prevent already-closed votes requires a mentality change, but this is an actionable step. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2022 at 13:00
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In my opinion the homework tag shouldn't exist. This site should care about question quality only, not the motivation behind the question.

Furthermore, the homework policy should be renamed and not involve the word "homework". We want good questions, and we want to avoid questions that ask for solutions to specific problems without context; if we ask a question about a specific problem, we want to show what we've tried and ask for how to get unstuck, because that's useful insofar as it generates an answer likely to call out a pitfall or clarify a point of confusion.

More about this here.

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In general, tags are very useful tool in searching the site.

Whether a question is on-topic or off-topic is determined by the Phys.SE community (partly via close & reopen votes), and its conclusion should in principle be independent of whether certain tags are applied or not.

Note that banning certain tags would not cause users to stop asking certain questions. It would only make it more difficult to identify them.

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I follow GiorgioP answer and as first, maybe trivial, thing I stress the conceptual uncertainty about the word "homework": if I have a question about a passage regarding a propagator I can certainly ask for it, by experience I asked myself and I saw it done many times, but how if this is leaved as an exercise for the reader in some books; is this an homework? It clearly is not, because it wasn't in the first case.

This uncertainty seems to be solved, stated in the advice you cite, because a question is very likely to be categorized as homework if you are interested only in the conceptual structure of your passages and not of the theory you are considering: at the same time though, physics uses mathematics as a tool, and is inevitable that many physical questions involves mathematical uncertainties and errors, not just physical errors regarding the way the theory is thinked by the asker.

Also, as a personal opinion, the conceptual privilege reserved to the site quality, that make the site go against this type of questions, is dangerous since it puts the site way above the heads of the users and the moderators too, that make it exists, posing it far away from the intent of discuss physics; seems to be this idea of purity in the background that repels discussion and dialectic. Also this makes the site to have a too rigid approach that I think also quite ansiogenic for the new users, so detrimental for the site on the long term.

To conclude, I personally don't have anything against homeworks, but I understand that a low-limit should be put to avoid questions like: "solve me this exercise". I agree on this, but I think also there is too strict and rigid moderation on this, that in my opinion should be relaxed to make the site breathe a bit more. Nobody gains anything, and the richness should be in the discussion and in putting on the table different opinions: maybe I idealize too much, because every-day moderation I imagine to be quite harsh, because not everyone wants really this and many people want to just have their problem solved, but at the same time I think the site should remain open to give space to this spirit. And if an homework is a way to discuss physics, why not.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with most of your opinion. Sometimes the border between the details of a calculation and conceptual issues is very tiny. The best separating line should be based on the presence of general interest in the answer or not. Unfortunately, I do not see consistent applications of it. However, there is an important point you should take into account. The general philosophy behind all the Stack Exchange sites is that they are Q&A sites, not forums of discussions. I agree that such a constraint may sometimes be limiting in the case of Physics, but I do not see ways to change it. $\endgroup$ Nov 21, 2022 at 8:49
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    $\begingroup$ @GiorgioP About philosophy, physics was born with it, that's why I accent it so much the importance of discussion; not always there are, and can be, clear questions and clear answers, but that is the beauty of physics and the very reason it exists, otherwise one will end up just confirming what he/her knows, or think to know because has deeply hidden a more fundamental question. I do not have a solution to avoid too extended and heavy discussions, nor I have about the homework issue, but I think some opening about these would help. I agree with what you said too and thank you for your opinion $\endgroup$
    – Rob Tan
    Nov 21, 2022 at 12:56

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