Examples: - Can MRI scans be dangerous for one's health?:

Can MRIs have any deleterious effect on one's health? Or would it be safe to have say 5 MRIs per year?

Given a blood test that contains the levels of parathyroid hormone, vitamin B6 and calcium, how to infer the level of vitamin D?

Is it OK to ask questions that don't show any research?

I am aware of What kind of research is expected here before asking questions? but the questions and answers there mostly focus on posting on Sketipcs vs posting here.


5 Answers 5


To improve your chances of getting an answer, you need to demonstrate that you’ve taken enough time to thoroughly search for an answer before asking your question. This saves the site from reiterating obvious answers and helps to get a more specific and relevant answers.

In other words, your should give enough details and context (highlighting exactly what you need), so it can answerable and can produce valuable and good answers.

Here are few highlights from this post to better understand this:

  • When I ask for effort, what I'm really looking for is a starting point, some context for where the problem actually exists. Without that, it's like trying to diagnose engine trouble over the phone.
  • Effort leads to much more interesting questions.
  • The "effort" isn't just effort towards solving the problem, it's also effort towards making the problem easier to solve for whoever reading the question.
  • Lack of research effort leading to countless duplicates.
  • Lack of effort describing the problem, leading to unclear and misleading questions.
  • Lack of presentation effort, leading to hard to read questions.
  • The three step: effort of providing context, stating the problem clearly, and explaining why obvious solutions don't work was just useful for me.
  • The amount of effort by the asker is not a good indication of a good question.

For more detailed explanation, please refer to help pages:


On top of listing what you have read on the subject so we know what you have read so far and may not quite understand, another reason for asking for evidence of prior research is that there can be assumptions made within the question which do not hold true within medical science.

If another reader takes those assumptions as fact, that can cause confusion for them too when learning.

Just as expected in answers, if you make a claim to know something, please provide some evidence to back it up.


I think it's fine to post questions that don't show any research, only if:

  • it's equally fine to choose to ignore them
  • it's equally fine to choose to downvote them
  • it's equally fine to choose to comment asking the OP to improve them
  • it's equally fine to ultimately close them when they have been hanging around with downvotes long enough to be clutter on the site
  • it's equally fine to use them as examples on meta of the kinds of questions that are considered poor

If the possible reactions to this option are in any way objectionable, then it just shouldn't be done.

I've said it before, so I'm aware that I'm repeating myself here, but I'm certainly not interested in answering such a question unless I have some special interest in the topic.

To answer your supporting arguments each in turn:

-the best majority of the ~800 questions posted here so far don't show any research

This is called a red herring. It means nothing except that a lot of questions show no research effort.

  • as a patient it is sometimes difficult to know where to start looking for trustworthy information

If someone can find an SE site and figure out how to post a question, they probably know how to google something, or explain why they can't.

  • it might be better to state a simple question rather than adding some unreliable sources in the question.

Every mistake is an opportunity to learn. If someone really believes in a source and goes to the effort of posting it, I think that's still a better question.

As Hercules said, the gods help those who first at least try to help themselves (that's a paraphrase of his actual mythological words.) Not that answerers are gods or anything. We're all only human.

  • 1
    Wouldn't it make a clearer policy to answer by yes or no? Aug 30, 2015 at 0:21
  • 1
    @Franck If binary thinking were not fallacious, the world would be clearer.
    – Susan
    Aug 30, 2015 at 1:09
  • @Susan thank you I will reflect on this. Aug 30, 2015 at 1:17
  • 1
    @FranckDernoncourt - You asked a question. This is my honest answer. It doesn't boil down to a simple "yes" or "no". It boils down to "it depends". Oversimplification is not my forté. Aug 30, 2015 at 1:36
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    @anongoodnurse Well I asked the question hoping to clarify the policy on that kind of questions. Your answer doesn't help me as it still leaves full space for arbitrary down votes and close votes, but perhaps others will find it more useful. Aug 30, 2015 at 2:11
  • 1
    @FranckDernoncourt - "arbitrary down votes" have always been, and always will be, part of Stack Exchange. Like the tides and the poor, they will always be with us. Arbitrary is also subject to interpretation. Some things deserve downvotes. Aug 30, 2015 at 4:11
  • @anongoodnurse so basically your answer is not specific to questions that don't show research, but any question? Aug 30, 2015 at 5:32
  • @FranckDernoncourt - I already answered your question. Aug 30, 2015 at 18:10
  • @anongoodnurse where? Aug 30, 2015 at 18:27
  • @FranckDernoncourt if your question is the title, then I think anongoodnurse's answer lies in the big box: it will be OK for you to ask if it is also OK for you to have the community to downvote or ignore it
    – Ooker
    Sep 10, 2015 at 11:27
  • @Ooker Ah the Schrödinger box. Sep 20, 2015 at 23:59
  • @FranckDernoncourt what do you mean? The cat is not in the quantum scale, I guess
    – Ooker
    Sep 21, 2015 at 5:08
  • 1
    I agree, the answer isn't clear for newcomers.
    – kenorb
    Oct 16, 2015 at 16:11

Unlike other StackExchange subjects, here the subject matter itself (i.e. the patients) show up from time to time. Doctors don't usually turn patients away who ask questions about their conditions for lack of research.

  • 2
    Doctors get paid to help patients, The people who answer here are volunteers. If they expect a bit more effort before they answer, they have that right. Jan 16, 2016 at 2:14
  • @anongoodnurse I agree but the fact that we get patients here and not almost exclusively students, means that we're going to deal a lot more with lay persons who are not used think and to evaluate things in a scientific way. So, even if they have done some research on their own, they'll often have been misled by bogus ideas. Also, we get many questions from people who seem to have psychosomatic complaints. They probably have exhausted their doctor's patience and are now coming here. Jan 16, 2016 at 18:29
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    That's a non-sequitur. You are free to answer as many low-quality questions as you like; however, you don't respect the system either, giving poor answers without references, so it's understandable if you think VLQ questions are fine. If they show research effort, bravo. They may get an answer. If they don't, OP should understand why the don't receive a well thought out, helpful, and time consuming answer. Jan 16, 2016 at 18:54

It is fine. It's often clearer to state a question focusing on specifying the problem, and have answers bringing the research, as Skeptics does, for example.

Questions without research here are not the same as Gimme teh codez questions on SO, as the latter just ask for a solution to be copy-pasted without trying to understand what's going on.

On a more pragmatic note:

  • the vast majority of the ~800 questions posted here so far don't show any research
  • as a patient it is sometimes difficult to know where to start looking for trustworthy information (and a lot of it is behind pay-wall)
  • it might be better to state a simple question rather than adding some unreliable sources in the question.
  • 1
    After looking at many of the questions (some which were closed), I do actually feel these questions are often close to the Gimme teh codez mentality but that could just be my pessimism. I feel like the Health vesion is a "Shoot mez de Dx" question. Without some Google-ing I have a hard time believing the asker has an interest in what is actually going on, versus getting their immediate personal concern covered
    – Atl LED
    Sep 19, 2015 at 1:45
  • 1
    @AtlLED Then think about the other readers that came from Google looking for answers. They won't care whether the OP did some research. Sep 20, 2015 at 5:59
  • 2
    I am not being flippant when I ask this, but should Google landing traffic be the overriding concern? I understand that might make up the majority of traffic for some questions. Maybe it should, but as others have pointed out, it certainly doesn't entice me to stay when I see easily Google-able questions. I certainly don't speak for others on this, but I think that is one of the concerns behind retaining professionals. I'm also concerned that if just ignore these questions that will reflect poorly on the SO stats for the site.
    – Atl LED
    Sep 20, 2015 at 23:52
  • @AtlLED Well we'd have to delete most the questions. Anyway in my field I don't mind answering a question that shows no research, it often makes the question clearer and to the point, the OP doesn't have to waste time to go through literature he's not familiar with, among other upsides. Sep 20, 2015 at 23:57
  • @AtlLED - I am in complete agreement with you. Glad to hear I'm not the only one. Sep 21, 2015 at 0:50
  • @FranckDernoncourt - You are free to answer any question you like. We are free to do the same. Or not. Sep 21, 2015 at 0:52
  • @anongoodnurse Sure. The issue is people closing or deleting posts. hence the need for a policy. Sep 21, 2015 at 0:58
  • @FranckDernoncourt - People rarely behave in a manner consistent with "policy". Sep 21, 2015 at 1:48
  • @anongoodnurse how about calling it guidelines? Sep 21, 2015 at 2:01

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