The tag is supposed to be applied to questions which are not popular-science, which want technical answers.

However, I think the name is very deterring to those who want to ask such questions. I (and I'm sure many others) haven't used the tag at all simply because it seems like a tag that means something on the lines of orignal-research. I have often been tempted to (but I didn't) remove the tag from other questions because it seemed like a misuse of the word "research".

Only yesterday did I see that it really refers to technical (i.e. non-popular-science) questions after reading Can we encourage the "research-level" meta tag? What about a "popular" tag?.

Maybe this tag should be renamed first, so that users are encouraged to use it. Here are some proposals:



I want to note the criterion I suggested for research-level when I proposed the tag way back when:

Excluding any question whose answer is obvious to someone who has completed a standard graduate curriculum

I actually think this is the right criterion. It is the right criterion because (i) logically the graduate curriculum is more or less the common denominator amongst physics researchers (who are the target audience) and (ii) it works.

I understand that it cannot be made the tag wiki for reasons of niceness, objectivity and so on.. But it is something to keep in mind. And maybe the tag wiki is should be somehow rewritten, since as it stands a question from Jackson would count.

  • $\begingroup$ Who is Jackson? Do you mean something like Joe Everybody and the bar as described in the tag wiki is not high enough? You could consider rewritting it yourself too. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 28 '13 at 7:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton: Jackson as in Jackson's Electrodynamics, the standard textbook. And the issue isn't that the bar isn't high enough but that it's somehow orthogonal to the point. It implies that you need to be in graduate school to use that tag, but that anything a graduate student would ask is OK. I fear also that the phrase "domain specific" and the like imply that the question has to be obscure. All I want is questions that aren't boring to people who have spent a while studying physics. I'll consider editing it. $\endgroup$ – BebopButUnsteady Jun 28 '13 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ ...I would then update my answer correspondingly, if research-level has a new better tag-wiki. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 28 '13 at 7:51

I think there is ambiguity stemming from that linked post. It could be interpreted as asserting that all questions here should fall into exactly one of three categories: , , and .

My interpretation however is that this is not the case. There are non-homework questions that seek technical answers (rather than "please explain the universe without math") but could be answered by just about any practicing physicist who puts some thought into it, and thus are not restricted to those with advanced knowledge in one specific subfield.

For example, the two questions I have asked on this site1 fall into this category. They should not be tagged with any of those three tags (and I will rollback any edits that attempt to do so).

This has the benefit of allowing different coarseness of filtering. You can choose to only look at , or you could choose to simply block and so that you see both domain-specific and generic, not-too-simple physics questions.

In conclusion: Feel free to use if you want to restrict answers to the level you would get if you asked the question of a specialist in the field. You yourself don't need to be publishing papers on the topic. After all, this sort of tag is more for the level of answers you want than the level of the question. (If the question were at the very cutting edge of research, why then by definition no one would have an answer, and moreover anyone with the answer would publish a paper before posting to this site.) If you don't use the tag, no one is forcing your question to be relegated to popular science.

1 Neutrinos vs. Photons: Who wins the race across the galaxy? and Mars just collided with Earth! A question of eccentricity.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I think I finally understand why the term is used that way. $\endgroup$ – Abhimanyu Pallavi Sudhir Jun 27 '13 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ Hi Chris, I thought research-level can not only be used by questioners who want to see high level answers, but to tag questions that are pretty high-level too, such that researchers browsing the site can find questions they are potentially interested in. I agree that the bulk of non-homework conceptual questions probably need non of the too tags, and my questions are among those that need no level tag too :-) $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 27 '13 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Dilaton I guess I agree - if the question just seems that high-level, it could be tagged as such. I just don't think people who are aware of the tag and choose conscientiously to not use it should feel their question is somehow bad. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Jun 27 '13 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, that's right. Do you think the corresponding proposal should be updated, such that it is clear that most of the good average non-homework conceptional questions (that may be technical too) are expected to need no level tag at all? $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 27 '13 at 19:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Dilaton Not a bad idea to clarify that - that way we don't have to worry about forcing questions into tags when they don't belong (that would defeat the purpose of tagging), and it results in less work for everyone. I'll leave it to you to modify if you want. $\endgroup$ – user10851 Jun 27 '13 at 20:02
  • $\begingroup$ No I have asked Jess if he wants to consider updating his proposal to clarify this important point a bit. $\endgroup$ – Dilaton Jun 27 '13 at 20:17

and are even more ambiguous, and is demeaning.

Only yesterday did I see that it really refers to technical (i.e. non-popular-science) questions

No, this is wrong. It refers to research level physics, the kind that was allowed on the erstwhile TheoreticalPhysics.SE.


I think when we use as defined in the tag-wiki which says

The research-level tag applies to questions that arise in graduate and post-secondary work. These questions often require domain-specific knowledge and could not be answered from a general source or may be beyond the level typically covered by Wikipedia and other popular sources. research-level questions should not require new or groundbreaking research and results to answer.

it can quite reasonably be used to mark higher-level / advanced / technical questions as it has been done up to now. These questions do not have to be about ground breaking original research. TP.SE was not primarly about original research either (even though it happend that people discussed what is in their actual new arxiv papers too sometimes) , but about high-level questions concerning theoretical physics topics.


It's stupid (that's my feeling of course) to change the name of an existing tag. Perhaps I could agree on adding some synonyms if you really feel it's important. Maybe something like a researcher-to-researcher tag, professional question, or even researcher.


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