I just deleted a question that was pinged and downvoted (by a "did you read the FAQ" type of comment - akin to berating a naughty child), so I deleted it - simple. However a couple of things come to mind:

  1. There was an assumption that no research was done, I had done some research, I have trouble writing so it may have come across as no research.

  2. On looking at it, it was a similar style question as my Spanish Armada records post - maybe that one should be closed and deleted as really, it has the same problem as the one I deleted.

How can any assume what research a poster has done?

Further, as I am sure I will get berated and downvoted here too*, I read many posts in this meta that discuss how not to 'scare away' new members, another suggestion I can make is not to berate members and not to assume no research is being done. As such, I don't feel i can contribute here adequately.

  • It is a moot point really, in my case anyway, I am deleting this account on this SE (slimming down on SE sites from 9 to 6, staying in the ones I feel I can contribute to).
  • deleted questions are still available. Could you edit to include a link to the question?
    – Duncan
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 13:56
  • I'm glad you brought this to meta - I had looked back to see whether your question had stayed open (because I wanted it to) and when I saw it gone (and your profile requesting deletion) I came here hoping to find out why.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 8:37
  • 3
    I'm sorry you felt berated. It's hard to put a question out there and receive feedback. I think we've all been there. But feeling scolded like a naughty child is not what this site is about ;) It is about increasing and sharing knowledge. Sometimes comments come across more harshly than intended. As others have mentioned, explaining what sorts of research has already been attempted not only helps others to help you, but is also the most courteous thing to do. Otherwise, members become frustrated when they find out that they have spent their time researching something that you already knew. Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 22:27

4 Answers 4


Why do I need to do any research before asking a question here?

When you post a question on this site, you're asking people to do some work for you. You're asking them:

  • to read your question, understand it and assess what it is you need to know.
  • to assess whether they can (and want to) answer.
  • (if they don't have the answer at their fingertips, which is very possible given our subject matter) to do some research to help you.
  • to craft an answer to your question that takes into account what you already know.

[I've seen the argument made that posting a question isn't asking anybody to do research they haven't already done. I think this is ignoring the basic nature of genealogists and family historians -- we like to do research and we like to help other people. IMO, if you ask a question here, you should expect somebody to try to help even if they haven't previously done the requisite work.]

If you're expecting people to do some work for you, it isn't too much to ask that you do some work for yourself. Our faq says:

The community tends to respond better to questions that show you have already done some research (at least used a search engine or consulted a dictionary) before asking for help.

And, as others have said, it's helpful and courteous to include (or reference) in the question what you already know that is relevant to your problem and what you have already tried to solve it. Helpful because it will get you a better, more targeted answer (one that might identify a problem in the work you've done to date as well as providing some new information) and courteous because it will avoid anyone wasting their time repeating the work you've already done.

I've tried searching but didn't find what I was looking for.

Tell us what you've tried anyway. There's nothing wrong with not knowing the right terms to search for. And there's nothing wrong with not being able to judge which (if any) of the results that your search engine returns is the 'right' answer. And somebody having the same problems searching successfully will find your question and benefit from it as well.

I really haven't done any research!

Most of the time you'll get the benefit of the doubt and we'll assume you've done something before posting here. However, there's a 'tooltip' if you hover over the downvote button for a question that says this first of all:

This question does not show any research effort

If you really haven't done any prior research and that's evident from the question (or from the pattern of your questions), one or more of a number of things might happen:

  • Your question won't get an answer.
  • Your question will get downvoted. If you're lucky, there'll be constructive comments explaining why.
  • In extreme cases, when your question is judged to be "ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad ... and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form" because of a lack of supporting information, it might be closed.
  • Least likely, you will get an answer, for example, if it isn't too much work for somebody or the question is a common one that will come up again and so might as well get answered the first time around.

So mostly, you won't get what you need if you don't put in a little work of your own and show that you have done so.


I don't agree with the comment left on your question. Your question seemed fine, as is the first Spanish Armada question.

If anything were to be changed to your question, I'd state where you've already looked (e.g., Google, ancestry.com, etc.). But I believe as a general principle that it should be assumed that there has been some research done. However, it helps a great deal when we know what research has been done so answerers don't waste their time searching an avenue you've already checked.

If you want, I can undelete your question for you. It is a good question and could get some very good answers.

Please consider staying with us. There's a lot you can contribute to here. A single downvote and a single nasty comment aren't worth quitting over. Don't give up so soon.

  • I made that edit you suggested... so far, the net result is another downvote
    – user786
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 22:08
  • And two upvotes. Please note that both downvotes were placed before you edited it.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 23:15

Assumptions of research done is an excellent question for us to discuss on meta. I personally believe this site has historically been more stringent than the FAQ, and more so than most se sites. For many sites 5 minutes with google is considered enough but I feel that would receive the naughty child condescending comments.

The FAQ states:

  • "We welcome questions at all levels"
  • "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face"
  • "The community tends to respond better to questions that show you have already done some research (at least used a search engine or consulted a dictionary) before asking for help."

I believe we should be more accepting of questions. A question is not asking you do work to find the answer. It's asking if you already know the answer. We'd get more participation if we were more inclusive. And we should never make 'naughty child' comments.

I unfortunately can not read your question and the comment so I can't comment directly. Would it be possible to duplicate it here, or give access to the existing deleted question/comments?

I would encourage you to stay active. SE is a community activity. Keep your voice being heard. If everyone leaves (admittedly I've felt like it) who disagrees, it leaves a clique that is not as broad as SE would prefer.

  • 1
    The comment which offended the OP (for which I am more than happy to accept responsibility) quoted the third of your bullet points as the reason for the downvote. It was based upon the facts that there was NOTHING in the question except what I had already provided in a comment on a previous question and that the new question was posted within hours of my making that comment.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 1:29

Okay, let's try this again.

I'll undelete the question - but I am going to be very wary of posting.

  • 1
    Thanks. I appreciate you staying with us.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 14:26
  • It would be best if you change your about-me to "please don't delete me". You should probably send another email to SE (assuming you've already sent a deletion form) so they're sure not to delete your account.
    – Luke_0
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 14:27
  • I have returned my 'about me' to what it originally was. I have also sent an email to SE to rescind my request for deletion.
    – user786
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 15:06
  • nope, still spoken to like a school student - deleted the post, and deleting my membership. I don't have time for this.
    – user786
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 1:30
  • Not sure if the "still spoken to" relates to the comment I left. If it was, I would like him to know that it was certainly not intended to come across like that. I thought it was a good question, which I think I upvoted (cannot check now), and I certainly voted for it to be kept open. However, I suggested that, because it had received a Close vote as "not being a real question", the best thing might be to ensure that it had a question mark. If I am ever not sure what precise question is being asked I look for one of those. Our Q&A format can take a little getting used to but I like it.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 8:30
  • 2
    @PolyGeo The broad issue that you raise here (How to rescue a NARQ) probably needs (meta-)discussion away from the emotions raised by this particular case. While it is true that all questions need the relevant punctuation mark; it is not the case that simply adding a ? will alter the status of a group of words that are vague, ambiguous, rhetorical or canvassing opinion.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 11:36
  • @Fortiter Agreed - the act of thinking about where a single question mark could/should go in a paragraph or two invariably has me revising it several times.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 11:49
  • 2
    @Fortiter, would you be willing to start that meta-discussion. I think you're absolutely right about moving it away from the emotional context of this case.
    – user104
    Commented Jun 2, 2013 at 12:15

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