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For example, would "I want to know of good first hand sources and academic texts about the Templars military tactics" be on or off topic?

  • I can see benefits and dis-benefits on both sides. Not sure how this site should treat it thus the question. – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Oct 12 '11 at 11:35
  • You could always try chat – user39 Oct 17 '11 at 6:52
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    I think that is a poor policy- Chat is more of a disucssion, and the limitations of whom is online hurts one of the largest advantages of Stackexchange. – Canageek Oct 29 '11 at 19:12
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What if instead of banning such questions we created a special tag for them, similar to Tex.SX's 'Community Wiki' 'big-list' tags? I can see the value in such answers, as starting research in a new area can be very daunting, particularly with a broad topic or one with answers scattered through books on more general topics. Also when I come to history.SX I'm not likely to have an identical question as someone else, but if I have a similar one then the list of references could be very useful.

For example, I'm starting an essay on German Rearmament. I don't want people to give me information on my essay topic outright, but I would love to have some of the more knowledgeable people point me to where to find books on it, as such topics are scattered; I've got books on the end of the Wimer republic, the start of WWII, military history and the road to total war. I'm positive I'm missing good sources, and have a number of chaff book sin my pile, and being able to ask for help would be really useful, as well as beneficial to anyone else working on the same topic.

I'm having trouble finding examples right now, but Naming LaTeX Files is a clear example of a clear, but open-ended, question, as is What are the finishing touches you put to a document?

I think having them as questions is much more useful then in chat, as it is far easier to search for questions on the same/similar topics when a new person comes along then it is in chat. Chat also has the risk of no one available to help, especially as we grow, then answers do.

Finally if I'm out and about and see a question asking about, say, the British Army leading up to WWI, I can say 'Oh hey, I just wrote an essay on that, I'll grab my sources list for them when I get some time' -I'm not going to do that if they ask in chat, and I don't see them online again.

I would say that we need to restrict such questions to narrow topics: "I'm looking for sources on the British Army in the years leading up to WWI" or "1850-1914" for example, not "What are a list of good books on the British Army?"

  • I think this is a very good point. Establishing good resources is one of the major benefits of this site IMO. I like how your answer addresses fears of such questions on resources overwhelming other material on the site by providing proper compartmentalization of "resource locating" questions. – BrotherJack Mar 26 '12 at 16:38
  • @BrotherJack The other big advantage is that if there is a question with similar resources I might be able to use those, instead of having to ask another question. – Canageek Mar 26 '12 at 17:42
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These types of questions should be strictly off-topic. These are what I would consider list questions. You'll get a bunch of one-line answers and I don't think they'd really add value to the site.

This question could be rewritten as "What were the Templar's military tactics?" and would be on-topic (well, it might be a bit too broad).

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I think this site will get a pretty alive chat for side-reasoning/discussion where such reference/keyword questions can be asked. Also Wikipedia gives out alot literature links for every topic.

But too much of those questions would likely corrupt the tag system of "real" historical questions.

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    Wikipedia is not necessarily a trust worthy source. <\nit.pick> – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Oct 12 '11 at 11:34
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    True, but if you are just using it for a list of books to read then it isn't bad- I just grab its citation section, find those in my local library and grab all the books nearby on the shelf. – Canageek Oct 29 '11 at 18:44

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