Update: New How To Ask page is live.

michaelpri asked the Community Managers how the changes we proposed could be implemented, and they strongly recommended us to fix our How To Ask page first.

Below is an exact copy of our How To Ask page. I'd encourage everyone to edit the page and leave a comment explaining edits to it.

Just as a note: While researching the How To Ask Page, I've found out that our tour needs some help as well. Answers there have no references, it is never explicitly stated that personal diagnosis is off-topic. Maybe we can focus on that next...

  • 2
    We should definitely tackle the tour next. Looking at the example, it seems to encourage personal advice, short questions, opinion-based answers, and without resources! Can we change the questions on the animated images?
    – DoctorWhom
    Aug 31, 2017 at 4:08

1 Answer 1


How do I ask a good question?

We’d love to help you getting answers. To improve your chances of getting an answer, here are some tips:

Personal medical advice questions are off-topic here on Health.SE

  • We care! And that is why Health.SE cannot give individualized medical advice or diagnosis for multiple important reasons! Such questions will be revised or closed.
  • Avoid including your symptoms, situation, or background – that crosses into individualized diagnosis and is not needed or even distracting for a generalised answer.
  • Asking whether someone has a certain medical condition is similarly off topic.

Focus in on a clear topic, be specific!

  • Ask yourself:
    • What is the health topic at the root of my question?
    • What do I really want to know about it?
    • How can I phrase it to address the health topic itself, rather than an individual situation?
  • Ask something that can be answered in a few paragraphs, not too broad. (You can ask additional questions separately!)
  • As a rule of thumb: If you ask a vague question, you’ll get a vague answer. But if you give us details and context – that is not from a personalised medical request but a result of your research effort on a question of general interest – we can try to provide a useful answer to you and everyone reading along.

Make it relevant to others

  • We like to help as many people at a time as we can!

  • Make it clear how your question is relevant to more people than just you, and more people will be interested in your question and willing to look into it.

Search, and research before posting a question

  • Have you thoroughly searched for an answer here on Health.SE or looked online in reputable sources before asking your question?

  • Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

  • If you are waiting for an answer and learned something new that is relevant, feel free to update your question with the new information you've found via editing it.

Keep an open mind

The answer to your question may not always be the one you wanted, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. A conclusive answer isn’t always possible. When in doubt, ask people to cite their sources, or to explain how/where they learned something. Even if we don’t agree with you, or tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, remember: we’re trying to help.

Welcome to the Health.SE community!


Edit 1 (Narusan):

  • Removed the be-specific section because this will lead users to include personal medical background (to make a question more specific) and thus off-topic. We hardly have any questions that are too broad, so I decided to remove this section for good.
  • Changed the Be-on-topic section into a list and included the two main reasons why questions are off-topic. However, this section still needs work.

Edit 2 (DoctorWhom)

  • Revised off-topic section by clarifying phrasing, rephrasing, and changed heading to directly address advice. Otherwise people may assume their "health" q is on topic and skip it (I probably would have). Moved it to the top since it's our #1 close reason.
  • I applied your bullet point changes to all - easier to read!
  • Added more specific advice on how to frame questions (important and missing, IMHO) including touching on "too broad" without suggesting clinical context (which you were 100% right about, Narusan).
  • Added reputable resources link to search and research. People sometimes don't even google it.

Edit 3 (DoctorWhom): Polished to be more concise and easier to read.

Edit 4 (Narusan): removed bullet point of first paragraph

Edit 5 (michaelpri): some small changes

Edit 6 (LangLangC): Re-added redundancy to make some connections and reasons clearer and easier to grasp while hopefully addressing the reasons that have previously lead to the exclusion of some points. Just a proposal. Hopefully useful. Please revert if you disagree.

  • 1
    I will definitely get in on this tomorrow or the next day! Thanks for starting it!
    – DoctorWhom
    Aug 23, 2017 at 7:13
  • @DoctorWhom Quick annoying reminder. It's just that input from other users is important for Community issues, and you are one of the very few to visit Meta.
    – Narusan
    Aug 30, 2017 at 22:05
  • 1
    Thanks @Narusan, prod successful! Seems a big revision but really I kept everything, adding key missing points then adjusting phrasing and organization. I prioritized the major issues for closing questions, because attention spans are sh
    – DoctorWhom
    Aug 31, 2017 at 5:38
  • @DoctorWhom Should we do any more changes or ask the mods to update the page with this new version? I have little hope that someone else will take a look at this...
    – Narusan
    Sep 3, 2017 at 17:25
  • 1
    I'm good with it but I'm going to poke @CareyGregory for his input, as he's my senior here. I did participate in this site in Area 51 (although I argued against combining health and medical sites, but that's another conversation...) and I've poked my head back in a couple times now and then, but haven't been all that active until recently. (I'll probably be coming/going a lot in general, since my schedule varies widely.) I feel there has been a lot of development over the years.
    – DoctorWhom
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:15
  • @DoctorWhom Yeah, same with me. He and Lucky shut down my first answer back then, which was widely lacking. But they informed me of the site's policy in a nice way.
    – Narusan
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:17
  • 2
    Yes, same. The thing is, I want to make sure we're not being too narrow-visioned on the advice thing, since that could choke out the question-askers. I want answerers to be able to answer as much as possible before it crosses the line, you know? But we have to give some clear direction. (I have a couple meta questions I'll ask at some point about how professionals have historically approached answering questions, and what would have encouraged them to stick around more.) That's why I'd like at least one or two of the veteran users check this over to make sure it's on point.
    – DoctorWhom
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:32
  • 1
    @DoctorWhom IMHO, it's important to teach new and veteran users how easy it is to make questions adhere to the scope. We can have a rigorous line of advice-closing, if we manage to edit most questions to make it adhere to scope. I might be responsible for some new users that left the site because it's easier to vote to close than to take the time and try to make the question answerable.
    – Narusan
    Sep 4, 2017 at 10:40
  • 1
    Okay they're not biting at the pokes, so let's just go for it! I did a final polish to be a bit more concise. Give it the go if you're good with it.
    – DoctorWhom
    Sep 7, 2017 at 7:01
  • @Fonebone, what do you think of this? I may be able to do a more in-depth page as well at some point.
    – DoctorWhom
    Sep 7, 2017 at 7:07
  • @DoctorWhom Asked michaelpri to update it
    – Narusan
    Sep 7, 2017 at 7:45

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