I'm clearly not the first to voice concerns regarding homework questions. Most people here know this is not a check-my-work or give-me-the-answer site, and so don't ask poorly-phrased homework questions that aren't about a physics concept. But we still have a lot, especially from new users. There's been a lot of effort put into making sure people know about the homework policy, from the tour to the help center to meta. But there are still issues, such as this question, on which I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out what the OP's core issue was - only to have him/her suddenly announce that s/he knew the answer. Why, given all the effort that's been put in to the contrary, are we still seeing poor homework questions? Is there any way we can fix this?

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    $\begingroup$ There are only a couple of dozen people who are really active in curating questions---maybe a dozen names that show up over and over again and some who pitch in when they are passing by. Why would you expect them to quickly catch them all? $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee I was hoping for more passive measures, just as the homework tag features a good explanation of what a homework question should be like. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Oct 22, 2014 at 23:36
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    $\begingroup$ Having just read the comment thread below the question, I understand your frustration. "I need the answer ASAP". I can guarantee that if I had seen that one, my "vote to close" trigger finger would have been the fastest in the West. Well, North-East. $\endgroup$
    – Floris
    Nov 3, 2014 at 14:18

1 Answer 1


The homework questions are predominantly from new users. They probably didn't bother to read any of the info about the site (does anyone? :-), and in any case they have nothing to lose by posting the homework question. There's no meaningful penalty and in any case often (too often) someone answers it. Just look at the number of questions closed as homework that have answers: many with accepted answers. As things stand, the posting of homework questions is an inevitable result of the existance of physics students.

The only way to stop homework questions would be to bar new users from posting questions directly. One possibility would be to require questions from new users to be approved by the 3k users, or another would be to block questions entirely until new users had earned some reputation.

I would guess both options would require changes by Stack Exchange. I would also guess that the Physics SE is unusual in its disapproval of homework. As a result I doubt the SE would be willing to make those changes. It would be worth searching the mother meta as I bet the issue of approving questions has been raised before.

  • $\begingroup$ Isn't not closing questions already a way of approving them? $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Oct 22, 2014 at 10:23
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    $\begingroup$ Closing questions isn't an elegant way to moderate the site. It usually takes a few hours (sometimes many hours) to accumulate the five votes, and in that time the question often gets answered. Plus if you use the Questions link then typically a fifth to a third of the questions shown are closed, and this looks inelegant. But I have my doubts about requiring approval for new members. My own view would be we just carry on as we are and live with the homework questions. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 10:34
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    $\begingroup$ Minor grape. On a more serious note, I think the review system is working very fast, and certainly a lot faster than ~a year ago. I don't see a lot of would-be reviewers in the 2.5-3k rep band. Maybe we can encourage the ~180 3k+ users to review more? It would be helpful if the annoying number on the top bar actually indicated actionable tasks, but it doesn't. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ Stack Overflow also takes a dim view of simply transcribing homework-like questions, thought they frame their disapproval somewhat differently. But the ability of anyone to ask and answer without barrier has been a core part of the Stack Exchange model since the planning days (a deliberate difference vis a vis the ExpertsExchange), so it's unlikely to change. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 13:23
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    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind In the past mods used to do a huge chunk of the closing using unilateral magic. This leads to a lot of complaining ("One evil dictator mod closed the question" is easier to say than "Five evil users closed the question"). It also was quite draining on the mods. After some efforts we got the community doing it more efficiently (speed); but we haven't yet gotten to full efficiency — I hope we do soon. $\endgroup$ Oct 22, 2014 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect that some significant fraction of 'copy & paste' homework/quiz problem posters require an answer in a short time frame since, chances are, they're doing the homework at the last minute (or taking an online quiz etc. etc.) so, I would imagine that an effective measure against such annoyances would be some type of queue that delays the posting by some time period and that then requires the new, anonymous, or low reputation user to validate, after the time has expired, for the question to come out of the queue. I suspect a lot of these would end up in the bit bucket. $\endgroup$ Oct 24, 2014 at 1:57

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