I just (attempted to) reject an edit to include the "self-study" tag in a question, because the editor was "pretty certain that this is a self-study/homework question". "Self-study" is I think the only tag that refers to how the question relates to the OP, and not to the content of the question, and I don't think it is appropriate to add it to a question through an edit - we should ask the OP instead.

I am posting this because while I was writing the reason for rejecting the edit, somebody else accepted it. So I figured, there are diverging views on the matter, and hence room for discussion.

So the question is: "Should we add the "self-study" tag through an edit, or should we always ask the OP to do so?"

Response to Andy W comments and the "duplicate" issue

As is usually the case, Whuber's answers are exemplary, but he too writes "In my experience, around half of the questions the community initially believes to be homework turn out, in fact, not to be so". Since the way we approach a "self-study" question has differences with any other, I believe that a 50% chance of being wrong is enough to validate a policy of "always ask first".

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ possible duplicate of Should we tag questions that smell like homework? $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    Jan 9, 2014 at 16:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I've voted to close as a duplicate of the prior question, but I see no harm in revisiting the issue (especially if behavior has drifted). Also FYI your distinction of how homework doesn't refer to the content of the question is sometimes referred to as a meta tag. $\endgroup$
    – Andy W
    Jan 9, 2014 at 16:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ my POV. whuber's argument 'pro labeling' threads when it is clear they are routine questions (he provides guidelines), it is the strongest one in that answer. The OP can roll the edit back if he does not agree with it (which is not so likely to happen). Now if the edit is just to add the tag, maybe it is better to ask through comments and avoid minor edits. Some problems I see within adopting the policy you suggest: a) the OP does not always reply b) asking all times to the OP (while one already was going to make some edits in the post) can become a time-consuming task. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2014 at 18:06
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Andre Silva Thanks for the comment. The problem is that under "self-study" we place both "routine" questions (which one may ask for whatever reason, and for which a one-step search over the web would in most cases provide an answer), but also "homework" questions, where we are meant to at least initially kindly push the OP towards finding the answer on its own. As for a) in your comment, I just propose to "always ask first" -if the OP does not react, then the matter passes on to the community, in which case Whuber's guidelines most certainly apply. As for b), yes that's an issue. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2014 at 18:17
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ I am one of the people who approved that edit. I don't have a problem w/ people editing questions to add the [self-study] tag, & I do it myself. This is especially true when, as here, someone just copies & pastes a question from their homework. I'm happy to help users w/ their stats questions, but I have no interest in doing students' HW for them. I also assign these problems & have no interest in my students getting their answers from the internet. There are resources--me, TAs, etc--available when students have difficulty. I try to deal w/ such Qs on CV just as I do when students email me. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2014 at 18:50
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Regarding the issue of politeness, you raise a good point. When I edit to add the tag, I always also leave a comment (which I just copy & paste & change the name). Here is my standard note: "We welcome questions like this, @user____, but we treat them differently. Please tell us what you understand thus far, what you've tried & where you are stuck, & we'll try to provide hints to get you unstuck. To better understand the process, you should read the wiki for the [self-study] tag." The hope is that this comment preempts any sense of the OP being disparaged. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2014 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ @gung Well, that's a comprehensive policy (+1)! $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2014 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ If that happened to be my edit, and I wrote that in the description of the edit, I think I happened to be right that particular time, and I think I added a comment too. Just sayin'. :) Could be misremembering! Great to see some meta-discussion on the topic; I'll revisit the previous question too, so even if a duplicate, it's served its purpose! $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2014 at 15:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @NickStauner Indeed, it was one of your edits Nick -which proved quite helpful to me, since it made me think about the matter! $\endgroup$ Jan 10, 2014 at 15:29
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Always asking first would be polite, but I don't think it is especially practical. Often these questions come from new or inexperienced users not familiar with tagging, or much else; indeed they often back off and disappear when people don't do as they ask. Removing a mistaken tag is easy and painless when needed. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Jan 13, 2014 at 18:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Nick Cox Hmm, that's a reasonable approach too. I think the overall sentiment is "let's continue doing this -but carefully". $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2014 at 18:36


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .