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I object to closing how to find the value of a? for "unclear what you are asking" because the question is obviously perfectly clear.

I think that definition creep is dangerous because once users see this behavior advocated, they'll start doing it themselves. To me an explicit close reason built into the SE interface should only be used for the purposes for which it is intended.

If the close reason you are thinking of isn't available, then maybe that's a suggestion that you should stop and think if the question really needs closing.

In this particular case I think there are already two SE tools available to address this question's lack of research, which does need some improvement.

  1. Commenting: Advise and coach the OP why research is encouraged. In this case it's a new user's first question and SE allows new users to post without having to read "how to ask" so we coach and encourage them. In a relatively low question rate site like Space SE that usually works quite well.

  2. Down voting: This is less desirable because most down voters don't revisit their down votes later to see if there is improvement. Nonetheless it is an option that is already available that doesn't require bending the rules.

Question: But doesn't voting to close as "unclear what you're asking" when the question is perfectly clear at least bend the rules by using a tool for which is clearly not intended? Isn't definition creep and user's getting the wrong idea that we can just use something something else problematic and counter to how SE works?

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There certainly are several reasons why that reason could be used.

It's my understanding that the primary reason to close for "unclear what you are asking" is to give the asker a chance to fix the question. If the question remains open while it is ambiguous, then there may be answers written in the mean time that contradict the intent of the question.

You are correct that readers should try to help to improve the question by commenting, and should avoid downvoting unless they are willing to check back later that the question has improved (and be willing to reverse their downvote). This is especially encouraged if the subject is in your area of expertise. (Who else do you expect to help improve the question?)

In practice, many questions that are closed never go through the improvement process. So it goes.


Some questions have conflicting parts, and therefore need clarification.

In some cases, the asker is not fluent in English, and clarification is needed.

Another reason could be that the question is outside the reader's area of expertise. In that case, the ethical thing to do in that case is to leave the question for someone who is an expert. Don't vote to close or downvote it. Many questions are never answered, yet are valid questions.

Finally, there are just some questions that are simply incomprehensible, and it is not clear if the asker understands the topic well enough to improve the question.

But it should not be a catch-all for your own reason.

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  • $\begingroup$ Yep, you have hit the nail on the head in my view. This is how I use it. $\endgroup$ – Rory Alsop Jul 7 at 14:49

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