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Note that the site's current policy on homework questions is found at

How do I ask homework questions on Physics Stack Exchange?

which will always have the current version of the policy.


Many communities must deal with this question sooner or later, might as well get the ball rolling.

  • How should we deal with homework questions?

I find that the Mathematics.StackExchange site is handling things well. Here are some links to their deliberations on these matters. As a frequent user of that site, I must say that we have been fairly successful of handling these questions well: both supportive, but not too helpful to be destructive to the questioner.

How to deal with HW questions.

More policy about HW questions.

How to not give complete solutions.

Homework tags.

Update July 2014:

Math.SE votes on homework tag.

Result of voting.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree wholeheartedly with your answer on math meta (your first link.) $\endgroup$ – ptomato Nov 3 '10 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ Good job linking to Mathematics, a moderator there linked me to one of those when I asked the same. $\endgroup$ – Mark C Nov 7 '10 at 3:44
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Most people have enough of a sense of the concept of "fair play" that I'd like to think this would be a non-issue. Unfortunately, it's almost certainly going to come up, and we don't want to deter people from legitimately using this site.

Cribbing from StackOverflow - on which the Mathematics.StackExchange site builds:

There are two principles involved:

  1. It is okay to ask about homework. For one, it would be impossible to stop it all even if we wanted to. Stack Overflow exists to help programmers learn and provide a standard repository for programming problems, both simple and complex, and this includes helping students.
  2. Providing an answer that doesn't help a student learn is not in the student's own best interest. Therefore you might choose to treat homework questions differently than other questions.

I agree that it'll be nigh-impossible to determine in advance which are homework questions 100% of the time. On the other hand, there will be those questions are going to stick out like a sore thumb as obvious homework. I don't think we want to get in the habit of providing homework answers directly, as that directly violates principle 2.

I don't think it's wrong to inquire if a question is a homework or class-related question in the comments. If it is, the questioner ought to be willing to accept help in a form similar to what they might get from a reasonably accommodating professor or TA, and it should be our job to do that.

Ideally, if we could get people with homework questions to voluntarily tag their questions appropriately, then everyone would benefit. Maybe this ought to be in our FAQs or guidelines somewhere.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with most everything you say here. $\endgroup$ – BBischof Nov 3 '10 at 14:03
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This thread is (as of August 2014) pretty outdated. This site's official homework policy is found at

How do I ask homework questions on Physics Stack Exchange?

For recent discussions about possible changes to this policy, see Bite-sizing homework, Why don't we just ban homework altogether?, Banning homework: vote and documentation, Does banning homework do long-term harm for only short-term gain?, A week of community closing: what should be disallowed homework?, Can we please stop applying the homework tag (and policy) to very advanced questions?, and links therein.

Note, also, that as of July 30 2014, math.SE has banned the (homework) tag, though homework questions are apparently still on-topic.

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  • $\begingroup$ This upvoted thread should also be kept in mind meta.physics.stackexchange.com/q/5372/2751 ... $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Aug 11 '14 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton edited it in. I'd be curious to know the reason for the downvote - I was hoping for this to float to the top, as this is merely a signpost to the state of the discussion ~4 years later, including what is likely to remain as the actual canonical homework question (in the sense that changes in policy will most likely be reflected in edits to that instead of new posts). $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Aug 11 '14 at 12:01

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