I just flagged a question about the grammar of gustar as "off topic because of no research effort". I don't like doing that. The thing is, I'm often not sure what our role here is. The unusual grammar of gustar is something basic that you learn in Spanish class, I imagine. Even if you're self-taught, your textbooks or reference websites will always have a chapter or section or whatever devoted specifically to gustar, because it's such a common verb with such an unusual argument structure. Should it be OK to spend our time writing an answer to basic questions that amount to "How does gustar work?"? Is there a polite way to tell someone "We won't reply to that because it's something you can easily find in any textbook"? Should we be more patient, instead, with people who believe they can learn a language by deciphering translations?

P.S. Per request, the question was this one. It was closed, as you can see, after a while, but not before it got an answer. Mind you, this was just an example. I've felt in this situation often, with questions about other common topics.

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    I think the limits are very much based on the profile of the OP: if they are new users who have a registered account, I think commenting is very much welcomed and what we all would appreciate getting. If they have been here for a while, then they are supposed to know a bit better and we can act a bit more silently, by just voting to close. All in all, a question rarely gets closed in less than 24 hours, which is a big amount of time for the OP to get their first feedback.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 14:54
  • One thing to bear in mind is that some of the resources people point to in answers are written in Spanish and however good your search skills looking for things in another language is much harder. Even looking up a word in the RAE dictionary relies on being able to understand the definitions given. But if there are plenty of resources in English then their lack of effort is a problem and I think you are justified in closing for lack of research effort.
    – mdewey
    Commented Aug 20, 2019 at 16:13
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    Llego un poco tarde a la fiesta. Creo que esos límites son un poco subjetivos, y cambiarán de usuario a usuario y de post a post. A mi a veces me pasa que se me ocurre una pregunta para el stack, la investigo un poco y me la resuelvo, y luego me pregunto si debo/puedo llevar esta contenido útil al stack. Lo mismo no le ahorro a la gente más que unos clicks, pero por otro lado lo mismo traigo algo interesante que no verían de otra manera.
    – Diego
    Commented Aug 25, 2019 at 18:49
  • Could you give us a link to the question in question? Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 2:55
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    Just added link to the question above.
    – pablodf76
    Commented Aug 28, 2019 at 10:12

2 Answers 2


As I said in the comments I believe that the limits of "no effort" are subjective and it's very difficult (and maybe even counterproductive) to try to give a one-size-fits-all solution.

The reason why is because you need to understand the background of the question and the user asking it, in order to judge. Personally, when I'm judging a contribution to see if it "shows no effort" the next question I ask myself is "why do I think that the OP didn't put that effort when writing the question?".

It could be for many different reasons that the questions wasn't elaborated or researched more. Some people may not be aware of the etiquette in most sites of trying to google something before asking about it (remember that "Let me Google that for you" thing?) Some OPs may be lazy about writing a good question that lets other help them better (and make them want to help the OP, by showing genuine interest, effort and appreciation for other's time and effort). Some OPs might be new to the site and/or unaware of our etiquette of trying to help people learn instead of just doing somebody else's homework.

It could be that the answer to the OP's question is easily answerable using a textbook. It could be that they failed to explain that they already checked one and/or why what they are reading there doesn't help them understand the answer. Maybe there are other problems with the question, like it is too broad or unclear, or not well targeted enough.

Should we be more patient, instead, with people who believe they can learn a language by deciphering translations?

We should be willing to encourage good practices by explaining them to newcomers and help bring up to speed new users so they understand what "quality contributions" are. We should also be willing to assume "good faith" with other user's contributions until proven otherwise.

Since we may know little about the OP, let's assume that they might be somebody who needs more understanding of the rules of the stack (maybe even life in general). Consider that you can take other "punitive" actions before you vote to close, like commenting or downvoting (it would be good that you explain that you are downvoting because you perceive the contribution to have low effort for XYZ reasons, and that you will revert the downvote once that the issues get addressed).

Thus said, even if we remind people that we are not a substitute for their teachers, textbooks and similar resources (we are more like a classmate willing to help them) there will be lots of people not willing to put enough effort in their contributions. If you feel kind of being "taken advantage" by trying to answer a given question or feel that is difficult to help a user because they didn't make it easy for us to help them (or for us to want to help them), just vote to close.

After all yours in only one of five votes to close. Other community members need to assess if the question deserves to be closed for that (or other related) reason(s). It could happen that there is a good reason to close the question because the OP didn't invest enough effort on it.


This will be an incomplete answer.

When judging the quality of a question, the first thing to ask ourselves is, is the answer already available on this site? When that is the case, in my opinion:

The question should be closed as a duplicate.

I think we should all feel that we have license to not answer questions that should be closed as duplicates.

I'm posting this partial answer, even though it doesn't give a complete recipe for deciding when a question is poorly posed, because I think the redundancy analysis will resolve a good proportion of the poorly posed questions.

One of the great things about closing a question as a duplicate is that it stimulates the OP to clarify what they're asking. Then perhaps we'll find that the question needs to be reopened and given an answer.

If the answer isn't already available on this site, then things can get more complicated.... But I don't want to try to give a whole flow chart here for which of the questions about unaddressed topics should or shouldn't be closed for lack of research. I wanted to clarify that just because something is easily found in any textbook, I don't think that by itself should automatically be a disqualifier.

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