7
$\begingroup$

On a few occasions I have come across questions where the question title asks one thing but the question body asks something related but different. Sometimes, the difference between the question title and the body of the question is quite significant, yet the questions still remain very closely related - close enough that it would be unfair to say the OP has asked an unclear question or anything like that.

I was wondering if anyone else can relate to what I'm saying, and, if so, what is the best way to go about answering such questions.

Does one answer the question asked in the title? Does one answer the question(s) asked in the body of the question? Perhaps one ought to address both the questions posed in the title and the body? Which of the two questions is more important and deserves to be answered; title or body?

| |
$\endgroup$
10
$\begingroup$

If it's clear the OP wants answers to both, I usually try to answer both, but point out that there's a discrepancy that they should edit to fix on the basis that the question and answer should aim to be more than simply solving one user's immediate problem, but should serve as an aid for someone trying to search for an answer such as this. (I tend to be a bit of a stickler for something along the lines of "actually ask a clearly identifiable question or questions".)

Occasionally - especially if I suspect they won't come back and edit, such as having been unresponsive to edit requests before - or where the required edit is obvious, I will edit myself to make title and question-body correspond and ask them to check it still matches what they wanted to ask.

Sometimes, especially if it's less clear what they actually want, I simply comment asking them to address the discrepancy in some way (by either editing the title, or more likely the body of the question).

I think sometimes people's understanding of what they want to ask evolves as they ask it (which may indicate a lack of research/effort up front, but it's also human nature), but that's partly why the ability to edit your own questions is there.

| |
$\endgroup$
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ "I think sometimes people's understanding of what they want to ask evolves as they ask it" - I was thinking the same thing just moments ago! $\endgroup$ – Graeme Walsh Jul 2 '13 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ @GraemeWalsh I often find something similar happens as I construct an answer. $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Jul 2 '13 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ +1, especially regarding edits, solving broader problems and evolving understanding. Past answers are also useful for other readers (I am constantly learning from them) so if someone can make something useful out of a question, even if the OP is not there anymore or is only interested in one aspect of the answer, I would say go for it anyway! $\endgroup$ – Gala Jul 2 '13 at 14:04
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ +1. Trying to answer the OP's underlying question is clearly key, but pulling the question towards something likely to be more interesting or more useful to others is not too subversive. Often a mediocre question will be lifted by excellent answers. Similarly, explaining why there is an underlying presumption or misconception can be the best answer, even if the OP wasn't seeking that. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Jul 3 '13 at 18:23
15
$\begingroup$

When you perceive a conflict between title and body (or even an inconsistency anywhere in the question), write a comment asking for clarification.

| |
$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ +1 This is sound advice. $\endgroup$ – Graeme Walsh Jul 1 '13 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ ... and then encourage edits to square the two... $\endgroup$ – russellpierce Jul 3 '13 at 23:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .