What is the exact meaning of the [self-study] tag? Should we consider renaming it?

Our self-study tag is defined as:

A routine question from a textbook, course, or test used for a class or self-study. This community's policy is to "provide helpful hints" for self-study questions.

The confusion comes from what self-study actually is, versus what the tag says. For example, I have failed through self-study to understand where actual self-study ends and the tag description begins. It is fairly clear from the longer description what the self-study tag is supposed to be and how to use it, but I must confess that I didn't look it up until just now, and, that the semantically confusing tag name is unhelpfully a tromp l'oeil.

Maybe we should consider having a different label for this? For example, "textbook questions", "student questions" or something slightly less confusing?

• @gung Best leave discussion here in meta, rather than confuse Novice further. – Carl Oct 5 '16 at 18:08
• It used to be called [homework] by the way, which is currently a synonym for [self-study]. – amoeba Oct 5 '16 at 19:03
• It relates to any routine textbook-style question (consider the trope "A train leaves New York at 9 am..."). If you still don't have any sense of what that is, you could always read a few dozen posts with the tag and the manner in which they're distinct from the other questions on site should become clear. (reading say 25 posts of this kind really doesn't take very long) – Glen_b Oct 5 '16 at 21:33
• In particular, the tag describes a type of question, not the type of person posting it. "Formal instruction" is too narrow because that doesn't include questions from informal/self-instruction. Same with "course-work" (but I'm not enrolled in a course) and "student question" (I'm not a student, I'm just trying to answer this question in my book). While 'didactic' might just about work (assuming we make it clear it includes autodidactic questions), I don't actually see how 'didactic' is better than 'self-study' unless your aim is to catch out people who don't know what 'didactic' means – Glen_b Oct 5 '16 at 21:45
• @Glen_b I guess [textbook-style-problem] gets quite close to what this tag is about but is way too cumbersome. – amoeba Oct 5 '16 at 21:50
• @Carl I should be clear, I don't oppose renaming it, but finding a good name that really conveys what is required is nontrivial. – Glen_b Oct 5 '16 at 22:01
• Haunt us? I don't think it haunts us. But a routine textbook problem may not be a "newbie" problem and vice-versa; e.g. I might post a question from Kendall & Stuart or Feller or Casella & Berger say that is beyond anyone you could call a newbie but is clearly self-study. [In any case, I object to tags like "newbie", "beginner" or even "basic question" since they needlessly denigrate problems (and in turn, their posters) that may nevertheless be conceptually difficult -- beginners already feel somewhat overwhelmed, and needlessly apologize for their questions] – Glen_b Oct 5 '16 at 23:37
• In many ways, "homework" was a better name, but I think some people took exception to it, & the idea was "self-study" softened the blow. – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 5 '16 at 23:50
• The problem doesn't have to be published -- a teacher could write a textbook-style problem on a whiteboard and say "for those of you who get through the set exercises, try this at home". (I don't see any pressing issue here. You don't understand the tag and would like a clearer one - that's okay to discuss... but we've had this tag for a number of years; the main issues I see don't stem from failing to understand what the tag means but simple unwillingness to follow the guidelines on the tag wiki - and the related comments under homework in the on-topic help - once they're pointed out) – Glen_b Oct 5 '16 at 23:52
• @Glen_b My apologies, perhaps I exaggerated. I take it back, it is not haunting us. We are, however, considering the matter judiciously. – Carl Oct 6 '16 at 0:02
• The Oxford English dictionary defines self-study to be, "The devotion of time and attention to gaining knowledge of an academic subject without assistance from a teacher or tutor." Using self-study to refer to professor or teacher assigned homework questions seems somewhat bizarre, stackexchange specific jargon. @gung my initial inclination was to suggest homework as well, but then the overall site has moved away from a homework tag? meta.stackexchange.com/questions/147100/… – Matthew Gunn Oct 10 '16 at 18:26
• @MatthewGunn, I don't think our HW / SS policy has much to do w/ the analogous SE policies elsewhere. There are a couple discussions on meta.CV of how we are distinct (see, eg, 1, & 2). We changed the name based on @whuber's answer to 2 & the subsequent discussion in the comments below it. – gung - Reinstate Monica Oct 10 '16 at 20:48
• @gung Thanks for these links. Actually, [exercise] (discussed there in 2012/2013) sounds like a great tag name to me, much better than "self-study". It suggests precisely the idea of a "routine textbook-style question", be it from a textbook or from a class, published or not, etc. – amoeba Oct 11 '16 at 0:31
• @amoeba It's an interesting thought. I can't think of substantive objections outside people caviling about whether something was "really" an exercise.. If that was the general feeling, I think I could live with that one. But the idea to call it self-study was in place before I was a regular so there may be issues that haven't occurred to me. Perhaps older hands will also weigh in. – Glen_b Oct 11 '16 at 1:42
• @amoeba Exercise makes sense to me, but I'm even newer here than many people in this thread (i.e. I don't know all the issues). And there's the whole qwerty keyboard argument for self-study that perhaps it's a sub-optimal system but it's a sub-optimal system that many are familiar with :P – Matthew Gunn Oct 17 '16 at 12:27

Keep current tag.

self-study

• Maybe we should create [textbook-problem] synonym for it and simply leave [self-study] alone? I like the current tag, IMHO it has a clear name, we already got used to it. Creating synonym would make it easier to find when tagging your question while not disrupting the current tag. – Tim Oct 6 '16 at 11:03
• A new tag would have to be sufficiently better than self-study to justify switching to a new name and trying to re-educate hundreds of users. Self study is problematic imho (prof assigned homework covering class material isn't dictionary definition self-study), but all the alternatives to self-study I've read so far also have problems! – Matthew Gunn Oct 10 '16 at 18:35
• @MatthewGunn The problem is not that old hands like us do not know what the self-study tag means, but that it takes about a year to figure it out. The concern here is the first time user who is not familiar with the very local jargon. And, jargon is a bad idea. So, my opinion is not that one needs an extra-special replacement for the self-study tag, just a synonym that is not a misrepresentation of the English language. – Carl Oct 10 '16 at 19:35

Keep current tag, but, create synonym tag

textbook-problem

exercise

self-study
textbook-style-problem