-type questions (link) aren't really a good fit for our site based on our current guidelines, but historically the community (YOU) haven't really shown much interest either way (they don't seem to get voted down or up very much at all).

The other mods and I have been talking about them on and off for some time now; we also brought it up earlier in The Great Philosophy.SE Tag Cleanup of 2012 but there wasn't much talk about it specifically.

Now I'm interested in hearing what other people think we should do about them. For example, I don't think it's unreasonable to use chat for reference requests and keep the question section for actual questions only. The relevant question is, however, would people's requests for references be answered as thoroughly (not likely). It's particularly hard because unless you are directly pinged in chat, whole conversations could go on in there and you wouldn't know. Perhaps we could dedicate 2-3 people for each major branch of philosophy and have people who make these kind of requests conclude by pinging those people. These "Philosophy Branch Leaders" would be listed in the FAQ, and the FAQ would be clear about posting those kind of questions in the chat space and pinging the appropriate party.

But there are perhaps other options. We could, for example, append the titles of all reference request posts with [Reference Request] or [RR]. Or we could just do nothing and allow them.

Just trying to get some community input, that's all. :) Let me know what you think.

  • 2
    As you say this has come up more than a few times, but just to have it on the record here: the tag is less than optimal (it's a meta-tag); and our policy around reference requests in general could use some spelling out.
    – Joseph Weissman Mod
    Oct 25, 2012 at 19:52
  • 1
    my main motivation in making use of SE philosophy is exactly this type of questions (such as for eg. philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/3864/… ) .. being able to ask questions like this is a potentially very useful resource for my present situation. i have much less time for online discussion than i do for course-work related reading, and i think reference requests are something which should be encouraged.
    – Dr Sister
    Oct 27, 2012 at 0:22
  • 1
    Don't everyone talk at once now. :P
    – stoicfury
    Nov 4, 2012 at 18:58

2 Answers 2


I've only joined recently but I feel that reference requests are an essential and specific part of any academic community, and are moreover concretely answerable (not open-ended). The tag lets people know that the asker is fine with doing the reading on his or her own, as opposed to looking for a quick-summary answer, which helps to guide the format of the responses. It also allows interesting questions to be asked that would otherwise be unpermissible because they are too broad or are otherwise geared toward a discussion (e.g. "What is the meaning of life?" vs. "What are some good sources on the question of the meaning of life?").

  • 1
    I'm with you on being able to ask them, although I wonder if having some way to distinguish the question in the title would be useful. You can see the tag before you click the question but perhaps something a bit more obvious, like [RR] prefixed to the title. I don't know, part of me is just saying it would be nice to let the reader clearly know ahead of time that the question does not follow the normal SE format and there is no single correct answer...
    – stoicfury
    Nov 22, 2012 at 21:12

I'm with @QuietThud and @Seldom on this - no offense @JosephWeissman, but what could be more useful in a philosophy forum than a way to locate and suggest relevant materials to a question?

On the other hand, if the subject is too broad for a single reference request to satisfy, perhaps just linking to a similar "umbrella" question may suffice, as in "this question was answered already by [some link]"? Perhaps link to these in the FAQ as well?

Ich putz nur hier, so perhaps my suggestions are a little inaccurate with regards to the possible actions that y'all can take, but I honestly think having references clearly posted and answerable is a valuable asset.

  • 1
    Roger that, thanks for your input :)
    – stoicfury
    Nov 22, 2012 at 21:06
  • I'm scared of being scolded for off-topic comments, but WHY is there a "ich putz nur hier" in your post?
    – iphigenie
    Dec 5, 2012 at 22:05
  • 1
    It's a philosophy forum. I prefer ideas over personalities, and my own ideas have a terrifying tendency to be wrong. It makes more sense to keep one's head down and only point out real crap when it appears, given all that, if one's to learn anything and not just spout off. It's also goddamn funny.
    – Ryder
    Dec 5, 2012 at 22:48

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