How do I ask homework questions on Chemistry Stack Exchange? Chemistry Meta Stack

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How should I ask a homework question on this website?

See if an existing question helps you

Check and see if someone has already asked a question that gives you the information you need. The search box at the top right corner of the page will be pretty useful here, but you can also try looking at tags that are relevant to your question.

If you find a prior question that seems relevant but doesn’t clear up your confusion, mention it when you write your own question. That gives the people answering a better idea of what kinds of explanations don’t work for you, and what might be more effective.

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. Something like “I already tried X, but it didn’t work”, is a good addition to a homework post.

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).

Don’t just copy the exact problem from your homework assignment or textbook. In particular, when you are asking for help, writing in imperative mode (“Show that. “, “Compute. “, or “Prove or find a counterexample. “) is at the very least impolite: you are, after all, trying to ask a question, not give an assignment. It also turns many people off.

Reference the source

If you’re asking about a specific homework problem from a textbook, include the book and the problem number, so that someone trying to answer the question can go look it up themselves if they need to. If you’re asking about a specific problem from a custom assignment prepared by the instructor, it helps if you quote the complete text of the problem in your post. Again, this shouldn’t be the entire content of the post – you still need to ask about the specific issue that’s confusing you, in addition to quoting the problem – but you never know when the person answering might need additional information from the original problem.

Use the homework tag

Use the homework tag on your question, in addition to any other tags that identify the kind of physics involved. This lets answerers know that you’re looking for an answer which explains the underlying concepts.

Why don’t you provide a complete answer to homework questions?

This is pretty well covered by a discussion on the Math Stack Exchange site.

Providing an answer that doesn’t help a student learn is not in the student’s own best interest, and if a solution complete enough to be copied verbatim and handed in is given immediately, it will encourage more people to use the site as a free homework service. In the spirit of creating a lasting resource of mathematical knowledge, you may come back after a suitable amount of time and edit your response to include a more complete answer. Or even better, the student can post his own correct answer!

If someone posts an answer to a homework-type question that gives away a complete or near-complete solution, in most cases it will be temporarily deleted.

Examples

The rules for how to properly post homework questions can be a bit confusing, so here are some examples:

Good:

A good homework question states the problem clearly, shows an attempt to work through it, and identifies the specific issue that is giving the questioner trouble. These questions demonstrate that pretty well.

Bad:

These homework questions don’t show any effort put into solving the problem, and they are too specific to be of use to anybody except the person asking. That makes them inappropriate for this site.





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