How should we respond to "homework questions"?

This question asks how to complete an artificial task that is unlikely to be useful in a practical graphics setting, but is part of learning the basics about a graphics library. Does that make it on topic as part of learning, or off topic as a homework problem with no practical application?

Where should we draw the line with this type of question?

3 Answers

I believe it's a valid question for learning purposes. Even though the the task has no practical graphics uses, the assignment serves as a good thought experiment.

With that in mind, I believe we should draw the line similar to /r/cpp_questions or StackOverflow. That is:

1. We will not solve your homework for you.
2. Show that you've at least tried to solve the problem, or at the very least, tried to do some research
3. We can give code samples or pseudo-code as help. But, in following with 1, we should not just give the answer outright.
• It has valid practical uses, just not obvious ones. Sep 24 '15 at 0:48

Just to add to what has already been answered, I don't think we need a special policy for homework questions. Whether or not the question is the result of assigned homework is irrelevant.

What matters is whether the question is up to scratch or not. If the question is well researched, clearly formulated and not a duplicate, it should be welcome. If it's the opposite, it should be closed, downvoted, or face whatever other action may be appropriate.

I'd say this particular question is somewhat unclear and open for interpretation, so at the very least would urge the OP to clarify. That it's homework doesn't matter.

• I disagree. If it's specifically a homework question (or appears to be), we need to be careful not to do their work for them. There are some questions that have a very straightforward question, and it the context of "real" life, giving the answer is appropriate. Whereas homework serves a particular purpose that is different from other types of challenges, we ought to be careful to aid that purpose, without circumventing it. Jun 6 '16 at 20:27

I'd like to bump this discussion along with stating my own opinion about homework questions. Not because I'm a moderator now, but rather because I've recently seen a close vote reason on a homework-style question stating that it should be closed because it is a homework question (and nothing more).

I think, most if not all homework-style questions are asked, because the author has difficulties applying or understanding an underlying problem. And because of this, the author can not solve the assignment and asks for help.

Now the question can be asked like

In my course we have the following assignment:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam...

I tried X and Y but don't understand how to Z, because...

How do I do Z with respect to X and Y?

which deserves an answer, in my opinion. However, if it is asked like

Task: Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consetetur sadipscing elitr, sed diam...

Please help?

it does not look like a good question. And it most likely isn't, because often the question is too broad, unclear or both, because there are too many aspects in the task that could be the actual problem of the author.

And there will be questions in between these two extremes. But we should aim to turn the homework-style questions to be in the style of the former example. And if it is, it does not matter anymore whether or not it is a homework related question.

While researching how other sites handle homework questions, I found some paragraphs which I'd like to share:

Don't flag questions as "homework." There's nothing moderators can do about that.

There's a specific admonishment in the Help Center:

Questions asking for homework help must include a summary of the work you've done so far to solve the problem, and a description of the difficulty you are having solving it.

If a user is clearly just trying to get their homework answered without any effort on their part, I typically close the question, putting that description in the custom close reason.

Source: Robert Harveys answer on Meta Stack Overflow

I think this is a great way to close questions that are of the plz give me the codez and alike type.

Also,

• Make a good faith attempt to solve the problem yourself first. If we can't see enough work on your part your question will likely be booed off the stage; it will be voted down and closed.
• Ask about specific problems with your existing implementation. If you can't do that yet, try some more of your own work first or searching for more general help; your professor is likely to be a better resource at this stage than Stack Overflow.
• Admit that the question is homework. Trying to hide it will just get the question closed faster. Do not use a “homework” tag, but mention it in the question text if relevant (you can structure your question this way: “How can I do …? I'm trying to do this as part of … which is a homework problem. This is my attempt so far: …”).

Source: https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10811/how-do-i-ask-and-answer-homework-questions on StackExchange Meta, about Stack Overflow

and

1. Ask about the specific concept that gives you trouble

We expect you to narrow down the problem to the particular concept that's giving you trouble and ask about that specifically. That produces a question that is more relevant to others who might be having the same problem, as well as probably more interesting to answer. As a side effect it shows that you're not just being lazy and trying to get us to do your work for you.

The best way to produce a focused, specific question is to show your work. Explain what you've been able to figure out so far and how you did it. Showing your work will help us gauge where you are having problems: if it is a technical thing near the end, a short to the point answer will suffice; if it is some fundamental problem with understanding the subject, somebody will then write a longer, more detailed response. It will also prevent people from spending a lot of time going over ground that you have already covered or understand well already.

It's not enough to just show your work and ask where you went wrong. If you just need someone to check your work, you can always seek out a friend, classmate, or teacher. As a rule of thumb, a good conceptual question should be useful even to someone who isn't looking at the problem you happen to be working on. Of course, it's still good to include the text of your problem, just in case (more on that a few paragraphs down).

Source: How do I ask homework questions on Physics Stack Exchange? on Physics Meta

describe what's necessary to write a good question about a homework assignment (not necessarily complete). Of course, we need to adapt this to our topic.