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In our site Help Center, under 'Asking' heading there is currently three pinned user-guiding themes: What topics can I ask about here?, What types of questions should I avoid asking?, What does it mean if a question is "closed" or "on hold"?. I propose that the moderators formulate and pin yet another one: Guidelines to ask a question.

So far, there exist only a link within "What topics can I ask about here?" to how to ask a good question thread. A newcomer is of course unlikely to read that thread before composing his urgent question. Instead, he should be prompted to read through several compact and perhaps even commanding suggestions. Such a bill would probably save many questions from being edited or commented with displeasure. Among other points in the guidelines I'd suggest to cover these:

  • Ask your statistical question in a way that it does not appear to be tied to a specific software/language (such as R). For example, instead of just showing code do describe your analysis in words besides showing the code. Remember that people on the site use different statistical computer languages.
  • If your question is about difficulties/peculiarities you faced in analysing your data then try to give a relevant snippet of the data (right in your question), so that readers of your question are able to try to reproduce and check your results. Without data, many questions are pointless. Generally, avoid giving a link to an external data file, but if you do it, please leave the file in Excel or text format.
  • Use the formatting tools as you compose the question. The key phrase, the question itself, should be clearly discernible (e.g. Bold face). Code and data, if any, should go as Preformatted text.
  • Try to make your question specific whenever it is possible. For example, if you have difficulties in doing or understanding some kind of statistical analysis please make clear you specific concerns which raised about it.
  • Avoid writing acronyms of statistical procedures without decrypting them (and especially in the title of the question). The best practice is to spell the name in full first and give the acronym in parenthesis. Then later in the question use just the acronym.
  • Do not sign your question or write things like "Thanks in advance", "Thank you!", "Any help is appreciated" in the end or "Hello" in the beginning.

I do not think these points were formulated right by me, nor that other should agree with them. My point is only this one: create the Guidelines.

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    $\begingroup$ +1, theses are good suggestions. However, I believe the moderators are not capable of creating a new section to the help center, only editing a couple of the existing sections, such as where you see the existing link (cf., @whuber's comment here). $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Sep 28 '13 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed, we can't; but the SE team can. $\endgroup$ – user88 Sep 28 '13 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ The reason why we maintain that link to our meta thread, How to ask a “good” question on CrossValidated, is because we cannot do as suggested. That meta thread constitutes our guidelines. $\endgroup$ – whuber Sep 28 '13 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ I think you did an excellent job with the wording. Maybe if changing the FAQ isn't possible we can hack it by placing these suggestions within the On-Hold pinned question. (Whether or not it makes a difference I don't know.) $\endgroup$ – Andy W Sep 29 '13 at 12:27

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