It's not always clear to askers why their questions get downvoted. The Stack Exchange system lists the criteria as clear, useful, and showing research effort. What does that mean in practice?

To askers, their questions are useful (to them), clear (to them), and they generally feel that they've done as much research as can be expected. Unfortunately, a downvote doesn't tell them where they've departed from this. A comment can clarify this, particularly if the problem is that the question is unclear.

Ideally though, people should know what makes a question good before asking it. Ideally, we'd only have good questions on the site.

If you downvote a question and a comment isn't long enough to explain why, feel free to post here as to why a question was bad and how it could have been better.

What makes for a good question? Or what makes for a bad question?

  • 7
    $\begingroup$ Your question could be improved with a link to your original (down-voted) question. $\endgroup$
    – Steve S
    Nov 22, 2014 at 19:50

1 Answer 1


A good question is clear. The asker thinks about what readers will need to know to understand the question. The asker rereads the question and thinks about how else it could be taken. The asker clarifies any points that could be read in different ways. The asker makes sure that any term is defined, possibly with links to fuller definitions. A good question both opens (so people know why they're reading) and closes (to remind people why they read) with the actual question. In between should be background for the question.

A good question is useful to people who are looking at questions on an economics site. It has relevance to economics and can help people looking for economics knowledge. We're still exploring where the boundaries are on this.

A good question shows research effort. In other words, good questions do more than just ask a question. They talk about how the asker tried to answer the question. They help prospective answerers by giving some obvious paths and why they won't work. They are not duplicates of other questions on the site, and if they are similar, they explain why they are different.

The better questions include mathematical formulas or graphs that illustrate the concepts of the question and blocked solutions. Better questions help us learn something from reading them and leave room for answers that let us learn even more.


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