Suppose a person wanted to ask for resources to examine a subject further - for example, books on public speaking, websites with conversation starters, or videos about how to dress at a conference.

Are questions like these on topic?

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    My post in Area 51 Definition phase: area51.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/26950/…
    – Vylix
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 21:38
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    In general, I think we're better off not deciding what is and is not on topic until we have some questions asked on those subjects. If no one ever asks for resources, we don't need a policy. :) Let's take the time to focus on the problems we actually have rather than on solving hypothetical ones.
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 3:45
  • @Catija now we have two questions asking for existing study interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/1406/… and interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/2071/…
    – Vylix
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 17:06
  • @Catija while I'm agree that both should be closed as too broad, if someone asked a good enough question asking for them, should we receive it? The community seems to frown on these types of question, but the downvotes on these answers below make me thinking which one is our policy in this topic.
    – Vylix
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 17:08

3 Answers 3


Asking for list of resources is usually off-topic on Stack Overflow websites since the links become quickly outdated, and questions about books (or other materials) is nothing but a "list question" which after a while becomes a discussion threads which is difficult to maintain. That kind of questions should be closed as too broad.

See this question as example (with over +300 answers):

However if you think your question is more oriented and focused on particular area of expertise, feel free to ask about available studies and papers.

Read more:


Frame challenge: instead of asking for resources, asking about the theories regrading the topic.

When you ask for a resource of something (let's say silence in communication), you implicitly say that "I see these and those observations in my personal experience". Your personal experience has a lot of tacit knowledge, which you don't even aware that it exists. However, it is crucial to verbalize them so that internet people can understand. If they want to help you, they will have to ask you a lot of questions, and possibly there will be misunderstanding happens in both sides, which requires both of you to explain yourselves clearer. This essentially a discussion, and thus not fit for the site.

If, instead, you ask theory questions, you implicitly send another message "everyone can see these and those observations", so it's not a problem of tacit knowledge anymore. Theory questions are explicitly welcomed.

I think the ambiguity of language is the reason why your answer is unreasonably downvoted, and why the downvoters can only know that it's bad but cannot explain why it's bad. In physics or other exact sciences, "personal experience" = "objective observations". Because of that, they can allow resource recommendation despite the fact that it is discouraged in the SE model.

Can I ask this theory question about silence?
The objective aspect of subjective questions



These questions, when appropriately written, can be focused and a great addition to the site. I'd suggest a policy along the lines of Physics.SE's policy:

  • Answers must include not only a link or title, but an explanation of why the resource is ideal, otherwise they are deleted
  • Questions must provide specific criteria with which to judge answers - understanding/age level they must be appropriate for, preferred format, etc.

With these constraints, they can be kept from becoming list questions that hurt the site and turned into useful questions that help people.

In response to comment about paywalls/link rot:

The inclusion of explanation of why a resource is a good one leads to an answer having more information than just a link, which reduces the problem of link rot (though not completely; the answer is still dependent to some extent on the link). Another option would be encouraging the use of the wayback machine on the websites, as this also would minimize the problem of link rot. Also, consider resource recommendation questions aren't just for websites - books, papers, videos, etc, can also be recommended.

In terms of paywalls, yeah, those are terrible. But when books or papers are requested without any explicit mention of a need for free resources, it's kind of hard to find ones that aren't behind a paywall. From there, it's up to the OP what to do - to use a not-really-legal service like SciHub, to try their luck on ResearchGate (both paper-oriented services) or what have you. Really, if you're requesting a book, you should be expecting cost. Videos (YouTube is high in my mind here) and websites are very rarely behind a paywall, so I don't see that being a problem there.


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