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Are comparison questions acceptable?

More specifically, I wanted to ask how one would compare the Dutch and Venetian Republics during their zeniths - both were non-monarchical, both thrived on international maritime trade, both loved arts and invested a lot in it, both had a lot of canals in their capitals :)

One dimension of the difference is that Venice was mostly hedonistic, valued the display of wealth, whereas Dutch culture favoured modesty. Not sure how to phrase it though.

What of the following is acceptable?

  1. What are the main differences between the two republics?
  2. How does the economic power of the two republics compare?
  3. What are the main differences between the cultures of the two republics?

What is the most general (but still acceptable) framing?

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    As these kind of questions are among bread & butter of the discipline, at least in education, but quite certainly ('opinion-based!') difficult to appreciate on SE, kudos: most excellent metaQ! Buit instead of "etc" it might be more instructive to bluntly ask for alternatives, 'circumventions', or methods/strategies to fix common pitfalls. Anything to clarify the (possible) framings. – LаngLаngС Apr 20 at 21:32
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    @LаngLаngС yes please, could you clarify what framing will be ok? :) – Yulia V Apr 20 at 21:39
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    My issue with such questions is that a meaningful answer would be way too long for this site. – Moishe Kohan Apr 22 at 1:50
  • Short answer: Your example questions (1,2,3) would probably be "too broad," unless you found some way to narrow them. But Shashank's example, cited by TED, is a narrow, acceptable question. – Tom Au May 23 at 2:40
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As a mod I can't do hold votes, but my observed behavior of this site is that anything as loose as a simple "compare and contrast" question is going to be viewed as too subjective and open-ended, and get held/closed.*

What we do seem to do better with is questions more along the lines of {Civilization X} and {Civilization Y} both had {thing A}, but only {Civilization X} did {thing B}. Why?

So in this case the question body is doing the compare/contrast, while asking us a more objectively answerable and finite question.

Here's a real-world example of such a question: Why were the Huns so successful at siege warfare but the Goths were not?


* - This is in fact the main hook used to close questions that are pretty obviously a recitation of someone's essay question for a History class

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How would you identify the authoritative answer to those questions?

If I were asking that question, I'd probably make it more specific. I think there is a better chance of an authoritative answer to:

How did the Dutch and Venetian republics solve the problem of succession (or similar) The question body can point out the similarities (commercial republics), and why the specific problem (succession) is important. I'd wager that you can select an authoritative answer from the results.

Aside: at least for me the authoritative answer to this meta question is given by @langlangc's comment. Hat Tip!

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    I was after the main "dimensions" of difference during their zenith, given how similar these republics were in the "primary" respects: both non-monarchical, both strived on international maritime trade, both loved arts and invested a lot in it, both had a lot of canals in their capitals :) One dimension of the difference is that Venice was mostly hedonistic, valued the display of wealth, whereas Dutch culture favoured modesty. – Yulia V Apr 24 at 14:27
  • @YuliaV: Your example on this post is narrower than your other examples, (1,2,3), and probably "comes close" to being acceptable. I'd consider it "on the edge." I'd try to narrow it down further to e.g. "Why did Venetians like Titian paint nudes while Dutch masters, like Rembrandt did not? (if that was indeed the case). – Tom Au May 23 at 2:38
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I think the issue is one of "scope."

An "across the board" comparison of two entities would most likely fall under the heading of "too broad." E.g. "Compare and contrast the American, French, and Russian Revolutions." Where should one begin? Where can one end?

On the other hand, Shashank's example question is a good example of a reasonably narrow question: "Why were the Huns successful in siege warfare and the Goths not?" There is an implied background, they were quite similar in "most" ways except this one. Then, "why this one?" It's the "one" part that makes the question answerable.

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