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I recently received a comment from a moderator on an old question instructing to review how to ask questions and directing me to edit this question to include more background research.

However, I have been a member of this site for more than 7 years and I have over 1000 rep - suggesting that other users (via upvotes) have considered me a valuable contributor to this site.

So, why did I receive this message? Is this a mistake or an indication that despite my rep, I am not producing quality content on this site?

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The requirement for prior research is written into Stack Exchange sites. Every "How to ask a good question" page (including ours) stresses the need for prior research before posting questions.


Evidence of prior research is actually a reason to vote up a question, as stated in the tool-tip for the upvote button:

Upvote tool-tip

This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear

While equally, a lack of evidence for prior research is an explicit reason to downvote a question, as stated on the downvote-arrow tool-tip:

Downvote tool-tip

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful


In short, SE sites work best if the questions are supported by preliminary research.



In this case, looking at the timeline on the question, you edited your question yesterday (to correct a typo) which then 'bumped' the question to our site homepage. The moderator added their comment following that edit.


In general, comments asking users to include their prior research with their questions serve two purposes:

  • Firstly, they "do what it says on the tin": they ask people to edit their questions to document their prior research.

  • Secondly, they serve as a guide to new users who might read your question, and may then feel inspired to ask a question of their own. Hopefully, those users will read the comment, do some research before asking their question, and include the results of that research with their question.


You might also be interested in the related meta question Is there any way we can improve the quality of questions on this site?

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    What is the function of the voting then? I can understand that a mod might provide some feedback on a new question with no votes but this question had already garnered 10 upvotes - indicating that the community found it to be a valuable contribution. I am concerned that the mods are trying to circumvent the voting and impose a standard here that is contrary to the overall values of the community. If the question was of poor quality (and I would say it is not is actually cites prior research), why then was it not downvoted? – DQdlM Dec 10 '19 at 19:25
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    @DQdlM One factor is that the reputation requirement to upvote is significantly less than that required to downvote questions or answers. How and why people choose to vote isn't something that I can comment on. Recently, I've even seen a troll question (essentially "Were more Jews killed by Fascists or Communists") receive an upvote!. But one of the Community values is the requirement for prior research, as set out in our "How to ask a good question" page in our Help Centre, linked in the first paragraph of my answer above. – sempaiscuba Dec 10 '19 at 19:32
  • And I would say that the question being considered contains prior research and actually cites the source of that research... but arguing that with you is meaningless because we have a system where the community should determine if the question conforms to the community values (i.e., upvotes). The fundamental problem is that a mod decided that the question lacked research despite receiving its10 upvotes (not just one). – DQdlM Dec 10 '19 at 19:42
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    @DQdlM My reading of the question is that you were inspired to ask a question after reading a text that you have cited. You haven't said what research, if any, you then carried out, before posting that question here. The novel isn't evidence of prior research, it was just the inspiration for the question. For example, did you look in any books? Did you type the keywords from your question into Google? Did you look at any relevant Wikipedia pages? – sempaiscuba Dec 10 '19 at 21:05
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That comment is not only there for you, the OP, to read and perhaps hopefully act on: improving the question according to some standards. As you commented on main "I understand that you want to have some rigor for the site but based on the standards of quality for SE in general". People coming newly here and looking at older questions should also get some guidance out of old content on how to ask a good question.
It should also serve as some kind of prophylactic: to prevent a commonly seen behaviour: when new people get this kind of comment and don't like it, then they look at prior evidence, or lack thereof, and likely point out "why me, here, but not there"… This uniform comment might prevent a bit of that.

That comment should also not be read as directed at anyone's personhood or "value". It is about and directed at the content. To be honest, I didn't recognise your username and here on meta you do get the automatic "New contributor" badge attached. If any of these facts were different or even reversed, I wouldn't actively form any such value judgement of good/bad person. I doubt that the comment on main by Mark reflects anything like that personal value judgement.

That comment is a boilerplate one, standardised and mainly applied indeed to posts coming from new users/low rep users, who post questions that do not reflect a desired quality standard. The intent of this comment is be as friendly as possible while still insisting on raised quality, or a "better post" by making suggestions on how to achieve that. Objectively, the question lacks "prior research", and in my opinion this decreases automatically from the quality this otherwise interesting core question presents.

That comment is a boilerplate one, standardised and in this case perhaps not entirely correctly applied.
When I see the rep of the poster on such an old question, I would have probably dropped the "welcome" part as not appropriate to the situation. (You've been here for a while, and hopefully already know that you are welcome here, or that we try to feel you welcome here anyway, like all users…). However, that is my reasoning for an old question. If now a veteran user and regular would ask such question in this way anew, lacking own research, then I would tend to leave the "welcome" in.
This "veteran status" is often hard to ascertain. I usually do not check for that, don't go to personal pages, etc. If anything of the above is done on mobile, that interface and the small screen are really great to facilitate making plain errors along the way as well.

In short: please don't read that comment as ill-meaning, and be sure that it is not directed at any person.

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  • I asked about this once on a previous old question that got the same canned comment, and the first paragraph of this answer was essentially the reason I was given. Its a legit reason I suppose, but personally I'm dubious that any new user asking a mediocre question actually does that.... – T.E.D. Dec 10 '19 at 19:12
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    @T.E.D. Well, I actually did that. Then there is this 'standard' that when new people get this kind of comment and don't like it, then they look at prior evidence, or lack thereof, and like point out "why me, here, but not there"… – LаngLаngС Dec 10 '19 at 19:16
  • It seems that this attitude undermines the function of the votes. If the mods can decide that a question is poor quality and requires "reeducation" despite having been upvoted 10 times by the community, then why do we have a voting system? If the question was poor quality because it lacked prior research (and I would say that it isn't since it cites specific source material), then why was it upvoted? – DQdlM Dec 10 '19 at 19:29
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    @DQdlM Maybe I misread it, but I see source material as the starting point inspiration for getting at the question, but no documented attempt at solving it. I do not see anything in such comments undermining the existing votes. Comments are fleeting small print, votes a prominent marker and sort criterium. – LаngLаngС Dec 10 '19 at 20:01
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    You say "And I would say that the question being considered contains prior research and actually cites the source of that research". I would respectfully disagree. As @LangLangC points out, you read a novel describing a particular set of behaviours in one place and time. You then extrapolated that to an entirely different place, time and circumstances, and wondered if the same held true, and if not, why not. The research was the question, effectively, and I personally see no attempt to "map" one observed behaviour on to the queried one. – TheHonRose Dec 10 '19 at 21:46

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