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When voting for closing , the reasons one can check are:

duplicate, off topic, unclear, too broad, primarily opinion based.

This question though is just too low level in physics and displays a lack of physics background and even if answered the person who asked would probably not understand the answer.

One might call the new choice "OP needs to read a basic physics course"

Sometimes I answer such questions because usually some equally ignorant of basic physics replies with irrelevant points, and it brings the level of the site down to a popular science one.

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    $\begingroup$ I might be in favour of this too. How would you propose to word the close reason so that it isn't too offensive to the OP? $\endgroup$ – Jim Apr 24 '14 at 13:58
  • $\begingroup$ Note that you can write your own close reason under the Off-Topic heading. $\endgroup$ – Kyle Kanos Apr 24 '14 at 14:21
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    $\begingroup$ @KyleKanos But it is not off topic, the example. It is physics but a jumble of physics. $\endgroup$ – anna v Apr 24 '14 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ @annav, perhaps we should have some introduction to physics wiki's here on SE that will be useful for introductory users before they start asking their own questions that we could link to when such questions are closed or when new users join up. $\endgroup$ – Kenshin Apr 24 '14 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Mew that, or link to resources on another site. We have some capacity to host wiki-like material, as part of the tag wikis, but mostly this site is for Q&A, and for anything that's not Q&A it's totally fine to refer people elsewhere. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 24 '14 at 18:03
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Actually I think the linked question is not a bad one. I would have closed it, but I would have closed it because it's homework not because it's a silly question. I'd guess most of us did the experiment of seeing what materials would stop gamma rays at school, and that's what the OP is asking about. There's some interesting physics behind this that's readily explainable to school children.

More generally, this takes us back to the point I raised in Should we have a Popular Physics SE? and the response of the community was clearly "No!" (which, in hindsight, I agree with). If a question is so badly stated as to be unanswerable then just close and who cares exactly what reason you choose. If the question is answerable then it's up to you to choose whether to answer it. If you don't bother answering then you can't criticise someone who does make the effort. If an answer is wrong then explain why in a comment, or if you're feeling vindictive downvote it.

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    $\begingroup$ "If a question is so badly stated as to be unanswerable then just close and who cares exactly what reason you choose. " On Stack Overflow they've actually gotten fairly picky about that because the pure volume of closes over there mean that if a small fraction generate a complain about the closure on meta you can end up with a lot of unwanted meta-posts. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Apr 24 '14 at 15:25
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I am always of the opinion that a visitor to the site should get something useful, even if his/her question is closed so I think the reason for closure, which is what they will read, is important for preserving their dignity. $\endgroup$ – anna v Apr 24 '14 at 16:31
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    $\begingroup$ Another reason to care is that if a post is closed as "off topic", it implies that no questions on that topic are allowed, regardless of quality. Closing questions as off topic when they are on topic but low quality gives a misleading impression to the OP and anyone else who sees it. $\endgroup$ – Nathaniel Apr 26 '14 at 12:03
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We're only allowed three custom close reasons*, which will all necessarily be sub-reasons of "off topic." So if we were to add another custom close reason for a lack of sufficient preparation (or whatever we would call it), it would have to replace one of the existing reasons. I don't dispute that this would probably be a good close reason to have, but the question is, is it more important than the ones we have there right now?

The current close reasons - homework-like, non-mainstream, and engineering - were chosen because, roughly speaking, we (mods and others who offered input) thought they were the three most common types of questions we wanted to most actively discourage. Or more precisely:

  • they are used reasonably often
  • it's useful to have specific, standardized wording for them
  • we want to actively remind people that questions of that nature are not on topic
  • they tend not to overlap

Perhaps lack of preparation meets these criteria better than one of the current reasons, but I'm not entirely convinced that it does. In particular, I think a lot of these questions also fall under homework-like (including the example you linked to) or too broad, and can be closed as such. For those that don't, you can always type in a custom close reason which will be posted as a comment. And I think that ability is sufficient to handle these sorts of questions. I could be wrong, though.

I could definitely see myself changing my mind if someone can come up with a wording for the new close reason that would be reasonably objective.

*actually it is technically possible to have up to 5, but all sites other than Stack Overflow are limited to 3 and we would have to petition the SE team with a very strong case to get them to increase our allotment.


On a separate note, I always downvote questions that show a lack of appropriate preparation. This relates to the issue in this meta question: I consider this site to be for expert-level questions in the sense that an asker must have adequate preparation in physics to coherently formulate their question and understand the answer they are seeking. Questions that don't satisfy that criterion demonstrate a lack of research effort (in a sense) and are sometimes also unclear, which is the criterion to cast a downvote.

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    $\begingroup$ I guess I am saying that the five checks we have do not include "not enough preparation", so even if often I go to the "close" I do not find the options expressing my opinion so I just leave a comment in such badly formed questions. The above is a badly framed/undestood homework question and falls in none of the five checks. $\endgroup$ – anna v Apr 24 '14 at 18:13
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    $\begingroup$ I'd go along with having an insufficient effort close reason. However I don't think this can be grouped with homework as they are very different reasons. Maybe we could replaced the engineering close reason. Do we use it that much? $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Apr 26 '14 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie I do see a question getting closed with that reason roughly every few days, I think. I don't have exact statistics on how often it happens, but I do believe the non-mainstream close reason is the most rarely used of the three. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 26 '14 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ: how about we replace the non-mainstream reason with insufficient effort (exact wording to be decided)? Shall I post a fresh question "Can we replace ..." etc? $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Apr 27 '14 at 6:42
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie it might be enough to put another answer on this question. I'm not sure. $\endgroup$ – David Z Apr 27 '14 at 8:17

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