For example, look at these three questions. All tagged , and all have no answers. That's a major problem. These extremely specific questions can't really be answered unless there's a study that addresses the question, which is pretty unlikely. What should we do about these questions? Downvote them? Close them as too narrow? Embrace them?

  • Hard question... Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 23:43
  • @PythonMaster that's why I'm asking :)
    – fi12
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 23:44
  • Is this an issue of people coming up with interesting questions that nobody has an answer to (scientifically)? The three linked questions are kinda highly voted. As for a "too narrow" close reason: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/252034/… Do we need a close reason like "Requesting too-specific scientific study"? :P
    – Hatchet
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 23:51
  • @Hatchet something is better than nothing.
    – fi12
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 23:55
  • 1
    Your link only links to one question, not three. According to the three I believe you mean (by using the tag), I don't see how they are "extremely specific". Could you say more about this, keeping in mind that a general question that can't be answered without a book (or referring to one) probably won't, and in any case such general questions are usually not considered a good fit for SE Q/A format.
    – user3169
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 2:36
  • 2
    Questions not having answers isn't necessarily an indication that there's a problem with the question.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 13:49
  • If you want to discuss questions that ask for "too specific resources", I think you should include your own. This one can be answered, at least partially, without a specific study. And I suspect that finding a study that directly addresses this will be difficult, for the simple fact that common sense can provide a pretty reasonable answer. Do you want such an answer? I'd be happy to provide one...
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 19:48
  • Here's another of your questions that seems impossibly narrow, by virtue of asking for studies on a false dichotomy.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 20:04
  • @Flimzy Did you realize that each word in "these three questions" is a link to three different questions, the second one being my own?
    – fi12
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 21:24

4 Answers 4


Really specific questions aren't bad, they're just hard to answer.

Having very specific questions doesn't cause concern, if every question isn't a super specific reference request that takes a long time to answer.

I'm currently working on an answer to one of those three questions, and I've been working on it for a few hours. That's okay for some questions to take hours to answer, every site has them, but for ALL questions to take hours to answer, that's not good.


Allow the tag to be broader, in terms of what is a credible reference.

The tag wiki currently states:

For questions asking for a published journal to be included as reference in your answer. Please avoid answering questions tagged [reference-request] without referencing a published journal.

But usually, the answer has some other type of source like a website or published study to back up their answer. Like my answer here, though the tag was , I used two articles as my sources instead. It still worked. Thus the tag seems a little too narrow. Maybe the tag wiki should become:

For questions asking for at least one reliable or published source to be included as a source in the answers.


The community has accepted these questions; the vote counts demonstrate that. I think they can stay.

Do we need a too narrow/too localized/"While similar questions may be on-topic here, this one was resolved in a manner unlikely to help future readers." close reason? Probably.

  • But the problem is that none of the questions have answers.
    – fi12
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 0:07
  • @fi12 What should I do if no one answers my question? The tag definition could also be slightly altered to accept any external references.
    – Hatchet
    Commented Apr 17, 2016 at 0:14
  • 1
    @fi12: You say that's a problem, but you haven't told us why.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 19:46
  • @Flimzy so it's not a problem if a high percentage of questions are unanswered? The problem is that having these extremely high voted questions not having answers sets a precedent for other questions to go unanswered. In addition, this could prevent us from building a larger community in the long run. It may turn away newcomers who think "if my question won't be answered, why ask in the first place?"
    – fi12
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 20:38
  • @fi12: If a high percentage of questions are unanswered, yes. But I don't think your three questions (or four if you count the other one of yours I found along the same lines) counts as a high percentage. I also don't think that the classification you've selected indicates a problem at all. I think it generally indicates well-scoped questions, which require more effort to answer. And at this stage most people visiting here are looking for quick gains, and not a lot of research.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 4:55

If the problem is that the request is too specific, the solution would probably be to broaden the question to ask for a request that is less specific, but still relevant to the OP.

"Are there studies on the effect of XYZ method for Chinese speakers learning Russian?" is probably too specific.

"Are there studies on the effect of XYZ method for learning languages?" is probably not too specific, but would still be relevant.

Note that this doesn't mean that a study will actually exist. But a study doesn't need to exist for the question to be properly scoped.

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