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This is a follow up to my prior question about the harsh treatment we give to newcomers:

Shouldn't we be less harsh with respect to asking for prior research?

In spirit there seems to be a consensus that:

  1. We do want prior research shown (though with some disagreement on how much)

  2. We want to be welcoming.

  3. The current message could be improved.

The current message is the following and needs to be improved:

Welcome to History:SE. What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? What did you find? Please help us to help you. You might find it helpful to review the site tour and Help Centre and, in particular, How to Ask.

My initial off the top of my head replacement suggestion was:

Welcome to History:SE. Could you edit your question to clarify what you've looked into already, complete with links and references, and context if applicable? In particular, please let us know what you find missing or unclear about the Wikipedia entry on the topic, if one exists. This allows those who might want to answer to do so without needing to redo the work you've already done. You might find it helpful to review the site tour and Help Centre and, in particular, How to Ask.

It has problems too (refer to the above-mentioned thread).

Please suggest a better wording -- it needs to fit in our 500 character comment format, including links in magic brackets -- and let's change the canonical comment with the highest upvoted suggestion.

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    The "current message" you've listed is my original version of the comment. The current standard comment suggestion is actually LangLangC's version of my comment. I was also wondering, if you want people to vote on the canonical comment, perhaps you should also offer the current version as an answer? IMO, "do nothing" should always be an option when you ask people to vote for a change. – sempaiscuba Sep 23 at 5:10
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    @sempaiscuba: Done. I was kind of hoping a few others might jump in and make suggestions... – Denis de Bernardy Sep 23 at 6:45
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    As all these comments are merely suggestions to encourage comments and make it easier (when otherwise none would be posted), it might also be worth a thought that the standard suggestion should include most cases, to be stripped down to the situation (easier to delete than to type). For that, I hold the "WP, if one exists" as just superfluous. That is never situation aware and might be better included in help-pages like How to Ask? Either WP exists and we re-ask about it, or it doesn't and the request is empty, and in all cases OP should from the start say "no-WP, hence…" or "WP says, but…"? – LаngLаngС Sep 23 at 12:28
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This has already made its way as variant 2 in our standard comment situations:

Welcome to History.SE [USERNAME]! Could you edit your question to clarify where you've searched and what you found already, complete with links and references, and context if applicable? In particular, please let us know what you find missing or unclear about the Wikipedia entry on the topic, if one exists. This allows those who might want to answer to do so without needing to redo the work you've already done. You might find it helpful to review the site [tour] and [help] and, in particular, [ask].

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Current comment:

Welcome to HistorySE, [USERNAME]! What has your research shown you so far? Where have you already searched? Please help us to help you. You might find it helpful to review the site [tour] and [help]. You may improve your question to comply with site guidelines with an [edit] and the help of [ask]. Thanks!

  • The word "research" isn't on the tour page, so that seems like an inappropriate link to include at all, let alone first, in a comment asking for additional research. – user22735 Sep 24 at 21:10
  • The word "research" isn't on the help page, so that seems like an inappropriate link to include in a comment asking for additional research. To get to the (actually relevant) how do I ask a good question page from the help page, the user needs to click View More first. – user22735 Sep 24 at 21:24
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    @drewbenn When I created the original version of this comment, I wanted to draw the new user's attention to the supporting resources. We have no way to know whether they've visited the Help Centre, but if they haven't got the 'informed' badge, we know that they haven't even scrolled to the end of the tour, let alone read it. Hence why I decided to include it in my comment. The [ask] automatically becomes How to Ask when the comment is posted. – sempaiscuba Sep 24 at 23:38
  • I don't disagree with your intentions, but I feel that the user is getting overwhelmed with links: there are 4, only 1 of which mentions research. If the goal is to get the user to add supporting research the additional links are just noise that will only serve to distract and demoralize the user. Perhaps that's the point? If not, I'd suggest a more-targeted approach. I'm a big believer in, understand a community before posting to it. I think the original version of this comment pushes users in that direction. But, is the goal of this comment share sources or learn our community's norms? – user22735 Sep 25 at 5:37
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    FWIW I've tried a few times to come up with a worthwhile answer, and have yet to do well enough to feel confident in posting. Crafting a comment like this is hard, and I feel like I have a consistent viewpoint about what's important to include in the comment. Getting disparate people to agree about what should be included and then crafting a comment is... significantly harder. IOW @sempaiscuba I really appreciate your original version of this comment :) – user22735 Sep 25 at 5:46
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    @drewbenn: My contention with the current message is that it would feel every bit as natural to bark it as it would to say it with a casual and direct tone. What I'd like to see happen is that we keep the spirit but put some lipstick on the message so it's more welcoming. In other words, we don't want a portion of users going "screw this place"; instead, they should all go "oh, right, good point, I'll edit my question". – Denis de Bernardy Sep 25 at 6:00
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    @drewbenn I explained what I was trying to achieve with the original comment in my answer to the linked question. I felt then - and still feel - that we are not always sufficiently supportive towards new users (and I include myself here). Yes, we generally need to be more welcoming, but we also need to communicate our expectations more effectively. IMO, simple, short sentences are easier to understand and therefore preferable. – sempaiscuba Sep 25 at 9:07
  • @sempaiscuba I totally agree that short and sweet is better. Which is why I think long-and-detailed, irrelevant-to-the-current-problem links shouldn't be included! If the goal is to make the questioner a better StackExchange user, then tour and help links are appropriate. However if the goal is explicitly to get the questioner to add sources then I think they are inappropriate. I think if you and I met in person we would agree on a lot of things, we would just disagree on their relative priorities :) – user22735 Sep 28 at 6:35
  • And if our goal is to add some lipstick or be sufficiently supportive, then, speaking for myself as a (not-good-with-people) engineer, I feel we should consider outsourcing that part. As a low-rep user and a non-academic, I'd humbly suggest this community should come up with a list of things that are important (a series of answers like "link to the tour page," "explicitly ask for links," and see which rise to the top through voting; then select the top 2-4) and ask one of the paid StackExchange marketing-types (we are, after all, out of Beta!) to wordsmith a good message. – user22735 Sep 28 at 6:43
  • @drewbenn Short sentences are less likely to be misunderstood. However, most people can deal with more than one concept even if they aren't wholly comfortable with the English language. We should be able to ask for evidence of research and encourage new users to learn how to best engage with the community at the same time. – sempaiscuba Sep 28 at 15:28
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    As for outsourcing the text, I'm pretty sure that isn't how SE works. If we want a suggested comment template for particular situations, then it is up to us. I still use my own version (the one quoted in the question) even though Denis feels it is "too harsh" & "elitist". Others are free to come up with their own or use one of the suggested standard comments. Sadly most just continue to downvote or VtC without any feedback at all. – sempaiscuba Sep 28 at 15:30

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