Recently, this question and that one have been asked in the tag . Both questions were closed within a few hours of being posted and as of this question one has been reopened following this discussion in its comments.

User A: This is asking about research regarding interpersonal relationships, not about an actual interpersonal skill

User B: Is your issue with this question specifically because it's asking for research, or because of what research it is asking for?

User A: Mainly that it's asking for research/literature, which I am not sure is quite on topic for Interpersonal skills. It is an interesting question, for sure.

OP: Asking for research is on-topic here. The tag "academic-research" was created just for that (and have six unclosed questions). However, the fact that I'm asking about an interpersonal relationship and not an actual interpersonal skill is a good point to consider

User A: I didn't realize asking for literature had precedent. I'm happy to reverse my vote. The interpersonal relationships vs skills is a pretty fine distinction, now I'm not sure. Can any more experienced user weigh in?

OP: Maybe we should open a meta question? I have no idea if it's on-topic either. Given the stack name, I would say it's off-topic, but maybe it is?


The question which got reopened was not edited, and no meta was written to discuss it before it was reopened. One of the users who voted to close it changed their vote after the discussion, but it seems to me as if there is not good community consensus about these types of questions.

It was decided in the early days of IPS to allow questions about theoretical applications of interpersonal skills

We want questions that aren't just "Which skills do I use?" or "How do I use this skill in this situation?" but also "When do I use this skill?" and "Why is this a useful skill at all?"

The next step beyond theoretical application is academic research. We have a tag dedicated to research which currently has 9 questions. 7 are open and 2 are closed. This makes me think that questions asking for research can be on-topic, but there must be some criteria that we can use to determine which ones are and which ones aren't.

So my question is: What are the qualities of a good, on-topic question asking for academic research?

1 Answer 1


I submit that any question can have the academic-research tag and still be on-topic-- I don't think that the tag is relevant in that way. It's a guide for what good answers might include. It is not an end-run around the other rules the site has for questions.

With that in mind, I think that a good, on-topic question with that tag adheres to the other rules of the stack as generally applied, but requests that formal research inform answers and be explicitly cited (as opposed to "In my personal experience, things work like this...").

It is my strong opinion that asking only for a list of published research should not be allowed here. There are some major problems with questions that contain only literature requests and the SE format:

  • They strongly encourage link-only answers, which are already problematic across SE.
  • The links themselves are unlikely to be equally accessible by all-- no comprehensive literature review can guarantee that all relevant publications will be publicly accessible. Further, those papers which are available to the public for free stand a good chance of being older, missing out on subsequent research and discussion.
  • They age poorly. Research is expanded upon and discredited regularly, and who is going to maintain these answers to make sure that the included papers are still relevant and in good standing, that the links still work, etc.?
  • Research papers are great, but they don't exist (and aren't intended to exist) in a vacuum. They are part of ongoing scholarship and exist in that context-- a link to a paper won't necessarily include critiques of that paper from other professional researchers in that field, for example. An answer that is a block of links removes all of this context and suggests that the papers are similarly authoritative, valuable, and useful.

Also, see this meta question.

  • What exactly do you mean by "asking only for a list of published research"? And what (if any) difference is there from your meaning, to this question?
    – Jesse
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 7:01
  • @Jesse What I was specifically referring to is an answer composed of essentially nothing but study links: (interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/20620/…). However, looking at the example question you linked, I might expand my opinion to include any question which asks something like "what research exists?". All of the problems I noted are still present with questions like these, particularly the lack of academic context and discussion. Published research can definitely inform an answer, but its existence should not be the answer.
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 19:36

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