I propose to adapt the same community policy on homework as on Stack Overflow.


  • Askers: Asking a homework question is fine. But admit that it's homework, and make a good faith attempt to solve the problem first. Don't just dump the problem statement: ask about a specific part you're stuck on, or ask for a hint if you can't get started at all.
  • Answerers: Use your best judgement as to how complete your answer should be. Don't downvote questions or answers made in good faith.
  • Do not use a homework tag.

(Background: homework tag on the main meta; Stack Overflow community policy on homework; debate about the homework tag; Etiquette on retagging questions as homework)


4 Answers 4


I agree with the first two bullets; I'm less sure about the last. There isn't a consensus about on SO; Jeff is for it, while the community seems split. There are 9 questions asked today tagged homework on SO, so the practice certainly hasn't died out. It comes down to if having the tag is actually useful here -- will people change their answers depending on whether or not the question is tagged ?

  • As I write this: out of 8 questions posted today tagged homework on SO, only 4 had the tag put in by the asker. Dec 29, 2010 at 21:21
  • 1
    @Gilles I'm not a big fan of adding the homework tag to posts you didn't ask, but that doesn't mean the tag shouldn't exist at all Dec 29, 2010 at 21:23
  • 2
    I don't love the homework tag, but to me it does strongly color the way I would answer and everyone else should answer -- give hints, not "the answer". It also implies honesty and good faith on the part of the asker. Dec 29, 2010 at 21:28
  • @jeff I have no problem giving the answer. but I expect 1. the homeworkee to tell me how they've tried to find the answer themselves. 2. if it asks for explanation, I probably won't give one directly, instead point to resources. 3. If it doesn't ask for explanation I might give one so that the homeworkee learns more. As far as the tag.. I don't care Feb 2, 2011 at 10:15
  • On the third hand, the homework tag was blacklisted on SO.
    – Braiam
    May 26, 2014 at 22:52

This is possibly partially due to the part of Internet I grow up in but I'm generally against the homework questions (i.e. visibly beginners homework questions when person didn't even bother to google answer and possibly just posted the question night before deadline) as for me it is form of cheating. However for good or bad it seems to be accepted on SE.

I think I would answer differently probably putting more emphasis into pushing person in right direction then giving straight answer.


I agree with Michael that the first two bullets are fine, but disagree with the third. If I was asking a question for homework I would rather be provided with links to sources that could help me find the answer on my own (and have a better understanding of the material) or hints as to how resolve a problem. Catch a man to fish vs teach a man to fish...

Like Machiej said, I don't think we should just downright give them the answer. If it was some really strange and obscure issue/bug that you would only know about if you've come across before or have a strong understanding of the environment, just flat putting that out would be fine, so long as that bug itself is not the question. In a similar note, syntax problems would also be fine (using "copy" instead of "cp"), so long as "what is the syntax?" is not the question. Although in cases like that I also think we should post a link to a good resource for syntax.

Pointing out why a solution does not work would also be a good idea (or hints as to why) but not posting the actual solution to the problem.

Finally, I'm only new to SO, so not sure if you guys have some form of spoiler or hide tags, but if you do, I think it would be a good idea the askers to post a solution in said tags after they've solved it. That way if someone has a similar question they have a solution, but if they only want hints (so they can solve it on their own) they don't have the answer sitting right in front of them.


Isn't the /homework issue simply about providing the context of a question? And isn't context part of what makes a question good? And didn't we all read the FAQ or policies before first-posting? Yeah, right, sure we did.

For that reason I refrain from down-voting on poor quality in first posts (which is where I see most /homework vampires) simply because I can't really criticise them for not reading and applying the same protocols that I didn't.

Anyway, now I've been here a while, I understand that the key elements to a good question are:

  • context, how did this issue arise?
  • clear expression of the problem to be addressed.
  • explain what was tried (with any error messages thrown). Even "I don't know where to start" lets you know the poster will need to be led by the hand.

If these key elements were expressly requested on the posting page (or even presented as default/background text in the question box?) then there is no excuse for a poster not to be aware of them and provide them.

Down-votes or comments regarding deficiencies would be more reasonably made knowing that the poster chose to ignore what we, as a community, expect of them (and indeed of ourselves).

Given a free hand I would prefer to confine new posters to a /babypool until the first question was well enough phrased to be released (under the review process) into the general population. If a questioner persisted in failing to correct their post after help then I would also propose to hunt them down, raze their house to the ground and plough salt into the scorched earth. But maybe that's just the way I way I was brought up.

Yours lovingly

G.Khan. Esq.

Barbecues a speciality

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