We have a tag which currently has 36 open questions (9 closed).

We also just added an official close reason for questions asking "What should I do?"

This seems to have a lot of potential for confusion: on one hand, users see the tag and assume that means it's on topic; on the other, close voters think "how do I help my friend/relative/etc" sounds an awful lot like "what should I do to help my friend/relative/etc".

What (if any) is the difference between the two? Should be off-topic now? Or, if it should remain on-topic, how do you write a good question that doesn't have the same issues as a "What should I do?" question?


1 Answer 1


I think questions can often border being too broad, but are completely different from "What should I do?" questions.

For example, let's look at How do I deal with my girlfriends anxiety affecting my relationship with my friends, which already has a couple votes towards being too broad. If this were truly a "What should I do?" question, I'd expect it to read more along the lines of:

"What should I do about my girlfriends anxiety? Should I break up with her? Should I try to help her? Should I not invite her out with my friends anymore?"

However, the real intent of the OP here is to figure out what he/she can do to help with their girlfriends social anxiety. Broadness aside, this is still a clear goal being set (more than what we normally see with "What should I do?" questions). Consider this rephrasing (or something of the like): Are there any specific skills I can utilize to help my girlfriend less anxious to be around my friends?

Now, whether or not we want to continue to allow questions that ask "What are the best skills to utilize to help achieve my goal" I feel is an entirely different topic - but I feel as though that's what most questions are really trying to ask, and should not be synonymous with "What should I do?" questions (in most cases).

  • Ah, so you're suggesting it should be more of a "technique identification" tag than "solution identification"? That might be tricky to implement/educate users on, but does seem like a meaningful distinction. (I'm guessing we will have to update the tag wiki after this discussion!)
    – Em C
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 16:38
  • 1
    I think if it were to stay on topic, yes, technique identification over solution identification. I think it's important for people to be able to have problems and a goal in mind, but not know exactly how they can go about it reaching said goal.
    – Jess K.
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 16:39
  • I think it's very important for the question to explicitly state the technique identification, though. Otherwise, when someone asks "How can I help my girlfriend with anxiety", how can we fault someone for answering "Try herbal anti-anxiety medication"? I know it seems weird to specifically ask for IPS solutions in the question, but I've actually seen comments where people are upset that we downvote answers that aren't about "talking"
    – Clay07g
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:16
  • @Clay07g I'm confused on what you're trying to clarify about my answer. Em C and I were stating that the difference between "how to help" and "what should I do?" is that how to help infers they need help identifying an interpersonal skill to use to meet their goal, whereas "what should I do" implies needing someone to identify a solution for the person asking the question, which has always been off-topic for this site.
    – Jess K.
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 19:52

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