This question is inspired by Colin McFauls very reasonable classification of questions tagged as due to the very broad notion of the term "homework-like" currently applied at Physics SE, and can be considered as a follow up of John Rennie's meta post asking for graduate-level upward questions not getting closed as homework.

I basically agree with John Rennie that gruaduate-level upward (technical) questions should not be closed as homework and want to go even farther by proposing that, refering to Colin McFauls classification, category 3 (not yet a good question but salvagable) and even more so category 4 (high-level problems) should not even be tagged . So my question is:

Can the very broad notion of "homework-like" as currently applied, be narrowed down to not include technical advanced topic questions that come up from reading higher-level textbooks, following advanced courses, or even from reading research papers (graduate-level upward for short)? And can then these advanced technical questions (not all of them at once of course) be detagged from (after appropriate edits if needed for category 3 questions)?

Here are some examples of advanced technical questions that should not be considered homework and therefore either directly or after an improving edit, detagged. I am not trying to sharply distinguish between category 3 and category 4 of Colin McFaul's classification at the moment, and this list is by no means comprehensive but contains just a few examples to show what I am talking about:

Conserved topological charge for d=3 Yang-Mills. G=U(2)

Correlators in String Theory (Green Schwarz Witten)

A question for the generalization of gauge transformation with two antisymmetric indices

Simple argument for unexpected behavior in SUSY model

Einstein action as a functional of the tetrad (first order formulation of gravity)

Twist of null Killing fields

Causality for the Dirac Field

Deriving Virasoro algebra question

few fermions in a harmonic trap — position density matrix from diagrammatics

"Redshifting" of forces in stationary spacetime


  • $\begingroup$ This looks like a dupe of John's post to me. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2013 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, OK, you're talking about the tags here. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2013 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ We probably need to decide whether we're even going to keep the homework tag first. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Dec 28, 2013 at 18:49
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    $\begingroup$ Also I would note that in almost all these questions, the homework tag was applied by the original poster, to voluntarily indicate that it arose in the context of a homework problem. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Dec 28, 2013 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ I've seen people repost problems from wald or polchinski or MTW here. They're homework problems, and I"m just as pissy about doing graduate students' homework for them as I am about doing a high schooler's homework. $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2014 at 4:08

2 Answers 2


I think we need to eventually have a critical look at what we really mean by the tag; as I mentioned in an answer to John's post, the tag means different things to different people and it's being used to mean all kinds of things. So much that I've stopped applying the tag (I still close posts as homework, though) in entirety because I'd rather not add to the confusion.

To answer your specific question, I agree, almost(?) all of the high level questions tagged really don't need the tag. They are obviously not closeable, and they don't look like questions that people would want to filter out. Many of them are a bit localized, but they still have a lot of worth.

But this just makes me wonder why we have the tag in the first place. It's displaying the same issues as , namely lack of consistency, and they are more pronounced because the tag is one of the largest on the site.

Maybe we could rename it to or some such? Or just remove it entirely. Questions are getting closed reasonably quickly now, without too much mod intervention. We might be close to a point where the tag can be quietly phased out.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, please rename it! problem-solving or hints-wanted or something. homework is misleading to everyone who does not frequent meta. It can be percieved as demeaning to have a homework slapped on your post - "don't give this guy a proper answer, he might be a cheater". hints-wanted etc. has a much nicer tone, and I could imagine using it on my on questions (as opposed to the homework tag). $\endgroup$
    – jdm
    Dec 30, 2013 at 12:00

homework tag should be renamed to exercise and questions should be evaluated on the basis of whether they are likely to be useful for further visitors who are genuinely interested in the subject or not. Of course, posting an actual homework without any effort is unethical and should be prohibited by policy, but we(you) don't need to be that harsh in enforcing that. Who cares? Those fools find their way to cheat anyway. Also, if there was no homework tag I would expect less actual homework questions posted.

I believe the site would be better this way, but the community shall decide

  • $\begingroup$ looks like a no so far. $\endgroup$ Jan 4, 2014 at 10:56

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