I have seen a recent influx in questions that come directly from a textbook, giving just the question and some surrounding information, often quoting larger portions that surround it but not showing own ideas or thought. It's like the users want to pass answers from here for their grades.

I don't think we should cater to such blatant questions here, analogous to physics and Math SE. There textbook questions are either outright banned or only allowed if you do show your own work and how you interpret the problem and where your problem lies.

What are the communities feelings about the topic? Should there be a blanket ban, guidelines on that you should show your work or should we handle it entirely different?

  • 2
    This "homework problem" is worth addressing. There is a broader "explain this book" issue that has been addressed here and in its linked questions.
    – feetwet Mod
    Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 14:24
  • 4
    that poster DOES show own work and how they interpret the problem and where their problem lies. see money.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2893 and math.stackexchange.com/a/2580970.
    – user34106
    Commented Aug 21, 2020 at 8:32

2 Answers 2


On the one hand, yes, on the other hand, no. I want to speak strongly against adding a crappy close reason, but would support a good close reason. I am making an analogy to a different SE site which has crappy but well-intentioned closure reasons, which I believe are misapplied in vast numbers of cases.

First, drawing analogies to physics and math is wrong: law is not physics or math. Second, the rationale behind such a ban is not that the question comes from a textbook, it is that it is a "do my homework / exam" request. I also dislike some of the questions that you're asking about, but I am not persuaded that these are "do my homework" questions. In fact, I think those questions (most of the time) are unanswerable opinion questions. The essence of the majority of these questions (or at least the ones that stick out in my mind as bad) is asking why a textbook author say something one way and not another. Questions about pedagogical strategy is totally off topic for Law SE, and probably unanswerable in the vast majority of cases. We have also had related question about why a particular justice said X in their written opinion. Questions about phrasing are off topic, questions about legal principles are on topic: there is my proposed rule (first draft).

I believe that just saying "textbook questions are banned" is a bad idea, but first characterizing the problematic nature of such question is a good idea. As a first pass, you might object "You didn't even try to figure this out". The problem is that for most questions, they evidently didn't try to figure it out. There must be a thousand question here asking if it's legal to violate copyright law in such-and-such circumstance where anybody that knows the first thing about copyright law would know. I suspect that at least half of the questions we get are non-challenging.

The typical "textbook" question is actually somewhat challenging. As a start, I urge you to identify the specific harm done by such questions.


Should we ban Textbook questions?

No. On the upper right of Law SE pages a quite visible disclaimer reads: "Law Stack Exchange is for educational purposes". That purpose is for the benefit of all readers, impliedly regardless of whether an OP proves his intent to learn.

I agree that some questions are unanswerable in that they require us to read the mind of whoever wrote the book. But closing a post for that reason seems harsh. A puzzled OP likely fears some "deficit" of his own is the impediment to his learning when in fact the impediment is the author's sloppiness. Whether that puzzled OP is not enrolled in an academic program, or his teacher/instructor is not alerting him to skip authors' sloppiness, I see nothing wrong with asking here or elsewhere.

It's like the users want to pass answers from here for their grades.

There surely are instances of that, but SE's role is not to police for cheating. If anything, that is a challenge schools themselves ought to address in the era of Internet in order to credibly certify that only capable alumni graduate. Other than that, I'm sure that most of us address only the questions we subjectively consider worthy of attention.

Adding rules and constraints for this or that is needlessly pointless because a question can be closed anyway by issuing five VTC.

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