I'm coming from the discussions in the comments here.

I disagree that voting up that question (as I too did) implied having a consensus on a homework/self-study tag (as I, for example, did not).

So I would rather have this as an explicit discussion here. Here's just why I think these tags are not useful (but again, up voting this question does not imply - imo - that you agree with me, rather agreeing that this is a relevant issue):

Content wise

We cannot infer quality of questions from these tags. Almost all other "undergrad questions" could have been from their homework. Almost all questions from this guy are (i) copy paragraph from Mankiw that has question and answer (ii) say why his intuition gives him different results (iii) ask for the correct intuition. Does that make them homework questions? No, because it wasn't his homework. Self-study, perhaps. Does it make the content any better/worse compared to a homework question?

Where is the distinction?

All of us are trying to learn Economics. That's the process of dealing with questions that come to mind. Should we add self-study to all the questions now?

What if someone, as a homework exercise, has to answer an intuitive question similar to "Why do we call trade deficits so despite the importers paying the exporters in currency?" He then, trying to grasp the matter, asks this. Now, it is still a "homework question", but differently phrased. Should we tag anything that could be used to do homework?


There is no special information in whether sth is homework or not, in order to warrantee such a tag. For these matters, we already are testing academic-graduate. Furthermore, any question can be a homework question (with good or bad effort to hide).

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mathematics.se recently had this discussion, which resulted in the (homework) tag being burninated and blacklisted on mathematics.se. $\endgroup$
    – ahorn
    Commented Mar 29, 2015 at 14:47

4 Answers 4


I think the only thing we buy with a homework tag is the hypothetical ability to have a lower standard for those types of questions if we should so desire.

I.e. "Well, s/he's clearly a student so I'll cut them some slack."

It may also serve as a signal to use more concise explanations, and simpler terms in formulating the response.

Otherwise, I agree it does little to effectively signal others on the site.


I think a homework tag is worthwhile having. It is useful because it quickly explains the intent of the questioner. A succinct, relatively technical answer with some explanation about the intuition will usually suffice.

I am not a huge fan of the self study tag because I don't think it adds much. A collection of questions tagged as self study would be very broad, covering essentially every aspect of economics. tagging something as homework provides at least some guide as to the level required.


I have just noticed that we have a self-study tag. I noticed because it was attached to a very low level question. I think this tag does more harm than good. To some people it will seem that low level or no effort questions are okay as the OP is a student. (Learning by not thinking about the problem?) The possible gain which would be requesting a specific level of answer can be attained by specifying the desired level in the question. In fact this is probably a clearer signal.

So I would say no, we should not have this tag.


I like the idea of a self-study tag to clarify the intention of the poster. It is blatantly obvious to most of us when a person is trying to get someone to do his or her homework for them. Having a self-study tag with clear rules about using this forum for getting homework or other self-study help would force new posters to edit their posts to show prior effort at solving the problem or have the post closed. I like the approach Cross Validated uses for self-study questions (also copied below), which I believe is based on SO's policy. I don't think there's a problem with trying to get self-study help here, just don't expect to get any help without showing effort.

I think the first step for such a tag would be to agree on the ground rules for self-study questions and the policies that the community would enforce, i.e. through flags.

About self-study

A routine question from a textbook, course, or test used for a class or self-study.

The following guidelines are for those who are asking and those who would answer self-study questions.

They are rooted in two principles:

  • It is okay to ask about homework. Homework is included in this self-study tag. This site exists to help people learn and provide a standard repository for questions in statistics and machine learning, both simple and complex, and this includes helping students.

  • Providing an answer that doesn't help a student learn is not in the student's own best interest. Therefore you might choose to treat self-study questions differently than other questions.

Asking about self-study questions

  • Make a good faith attempt to solve the problem yourself first. If don't seem to be making a genuine attempt, your question might be voted down or closed.

  • Ask about specific problems you have encountered in your initial efforts. If you can't do that yet, try some more of your own work first or searching for more general help.

  • Be honest about the source of the question. Do this by adding the self-study tag and mentioning whether it is for some class in the question text.

  • Be aware of school policy (if relevant). If your school has a policy regarding outside help on homework, make sure you are aware of it before you ask for/receive help here. If there are specific restrictions (for example, you can receive help, but not full solutions), include them in the question so that those providing assistance can keep you out of trouble.

  • Never use a solution you don't understand. It definitely won't help you later (after school, in later assignments, on tests, etc.) and it could be, at best, very embarrassing if you are asked to explain what you turned in.

Answering self-study questions

  • Try to provide explanations that will lead the asker in the correct direction. Genuine understanding is the real goal for students, but trying to provide that is seldom unappreciated for any question.

  • It's usually better not to provide a complete solution (or code sample) if you believe it would not help the student, using your best judgment. You can use pseudo-code and general descriptions first. In the spirit of creating a resource, you may come back after a suitable amount of time and edit your response to include more details, if the question seems like such information will have lasting value.

  • Don't downvote others who answer coursework-related questions in good faith, even if they break these guidelines. It is a good idea to suggest editing the response in a comment.

  • Don't ridicule a student because they haven't yet learned something obvious or developed the good habits you'd expect from an expert. Do add a respectful comment or answer that points them towards best practices and better style.

  • Don't downvote a homework question that follows the guidelines and was asked in good faith. CV explicitly accepts homework questions that follow the guidelines. Consider making helpful suggestions for improving the question instead.

  • Don't edit a question to add the self-study tag. If there's any room for doubt at all, it's best to leave it as is. Instead, add a comment first requesting that the asker clarify the situation.

(Adapted from an SO post by Joe Coehoorn as suggested in a meta discussion)


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