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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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 at 12:28
  • This is still an active topic; the suggested wording is still ruffling feathers, hurting feelings, which is in tension with our goal of being more welcoming, which is in tension with our goal of having a minimum standard of quality for new questions. Any better suggestions? – Mark C. Wallace Jan 25 at 14:34
  • @MarkC.Wallace: The suggested wording disgruntled someone in a recent thread? – Denis de Bernardy Jan 25 at 15:46
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    @MarkC.Wallace Is their any form of measurement about how much feathers were ruffed? Which wording seems more effective? While I still see all offerings in this & the other thread as mere suggestions, I guess we might as well evaluate these from time to time, fine-tune the old ones, or even retire one or some of these if they turn out too problematic? – LаngLаngС Jun 9 at 21:54
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I've been thinking about

Welcome to History:Stack Exchange. Thank you for your question, but please consider revising it to be more in line with our community expectations. Like many other stacks, we expect questions to provide evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question, and avoids our repeating work you've already done. Our [help] center, and other stacks provide additional resources to assist with revisions.

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    This seems perfect. Please change it by yesterday if other moderators agree with it. – Denis de Bernardy May 20 at 20:10
  • I liked this and used it right now -- though admittedly I don't know if only moderators were meant to use this phrasing? Please delete my attempt if that was so. – gktscrk May 21 at 17:59
  • I saw you used it; i smiled very broadly when I realized someone other than me had gotten there first. Thank you. – Mark C. Wallace May 21 at 18:10
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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!

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  • 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 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 '19 at 15:30
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I've added a "Note" section below to add context as to why this has been answered the way it has. Also some of the "friendly chat" has been taken back out of the message to bring the message length within limits.

Welcome to History:Stack Exchange! As a standard notice that we give out to all newcomers, we wanted to let you know that, like on many other Stacks, questions often benefit from providing evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question and to avoid repeating work you've already done. Our [help] and other Stacks provide additional resources to assist. Welcome aboard!

This is similar to another answer, but tweaks the wording to sound less like an accusation.

In particular, if you immediately and directly ask the OP to edit/revise their question, especially to make it better fit community standards, it sounds like you're saying that the question has a problem in its current form.

By removing the direct request, we avoid making it sound like an accusation. Further reinforcement in this case is provided through phrases such as, "As just a standard notice that we give out to all newcomers..."

Here we do make the OP aware of the issue if there is one, but we don't come across strong or unfriendly when everything is already fine as-is.


Note: It took me by surprise, but there seems to be some disagreement within the community about whether we just post the message on newcomer questions which have shown obvious problems, or whether we just copy and paste it on all newcomer questions. Personally I would've imagined the intention to be the former. However the disagreement does appear to be there, and so my version of the text is only applicable in the latter case, where we're just telling this to all the newcomers.

Originally this came up because I saw a version of this that sounded like an accusation posted on somebody else's question, when the question clearly showed research. In the comments below, there has been disagreement with some of what the OP was saying, but the fact is that they clearly did research, even if they had might've misunderstood something about it. That's what questions are for. In either case, whether we just post a message on problematic posts or on all new comer questions, the point is that we shouldn't be accusing the OP of not doing their homework when it's clear they have, whether they misunderstood something or not.

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  • I'd have thought that if "everything is already fine as-is" then there would be no need for the message? The whole point of having this standard comment is for when a question shows no evidence for prior research. – sempaiscuba Jun 4 at 22:19
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    @sempaiscuba That is due to a comment from me, I think – CGCampbell Jun 4 at 22:28
  • @CGCampbell That's actually a reasonable example of the problem. The Wikipedia article notes that the primary objective on Okinawa was Kadena air base (in the south of the island), which appears to answer the question. It also mentions Operation Gi-gou shortly before the north of the island was secured, so I would expect the question to mention that as well, and explain why the threat of further suicide attacks from Japanese forces on the south of the island also wasn't enough for an answer. – sempaiscuba Jun 4 at 22:42
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    I tried to use this and it is too long. The links can't fit into the comment field. – gktscrk Jun 6 at 19:47
  • Welcome to History:Stack Exchange! As just a standard notice that we give out to all newcomers, we wanted to let you know that, like on many other Stacks, questions often benefit from providing evidence of prior research. That helps us to understand the question and to avoid repeating work you've already done. Our help center center and other Stacks provide additional resources to assist. Welcome aboard! – Panzercrisis Jun 9 at 15:35
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    @gktscrk Alright, just edited it. Thanks for letting me know. – Panzercrisis Jun 9 at 15:37
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    @Panzercrisis: Also note that help center will already print "help center" so that "center" is superfluous. – gktscrk Jun 9 at 15:38
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    I think we may disagree about what constitutes "research". In part this has been discussed before here on meta. In the case of the Okinawa question, when I type the keywords okinawa battle south island into Google, the very first result returned is the Wikipedia article on the Battle of Okinawa which - as I explained above - seems to answer the question. The point of standard comments is to avoid the situation where posts are simply downvoted or closed without any comment. – sempaiscuba Jun 9 at 17:13
  • Hm. "it sounds like you're saying that the question has a problem in its current form"? To me, that's exactly the point. While we should try to avoid 'accusation' (or a too confrontational tone?) imo we cannot & mustn't water down too much direct and clear communication of facts, in this case that the commenter sees 'problems' with that post and that the question will be probably better off if edited, swiftly if possible. 'Softened' hard/harsh criticism isn't an oxymoron, but the line we have to find? – LаngLаngС Jun 11 at 11:53

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