I have a question about a specific grammatical form, but my question is more of a request for references analyzing the form rather than a usual Q&A. On other SE sites, there is a reference request tag, but I saw that that doesn't exist here.

Are reference requests off topic?


2 Answers 2


The EL&U community has decided, like many stack sites, that reference requests are off-topic on the main site, as being liable to turn into subjective popularity contests / shopping lists.

However, it’s also been decided that it’s OK to ask for resources and references here on Meta.ELU. So ask away. You may first like to check the canonical question on EL&U’s recommended resources for various topics:

What good reference works on English are available?

  • Maybe my post is unclear, but I'm looking for references to linguistics papers on a topic, not reference books. Nov 27, 2017 at 18:16
  • @StellaBiderman I understand. The same philosophy applies: you may ask on Meta, but not Main. The reference books may contain citations to relevant papers or other helpful literature. It's useful to know about either way.
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 27, 2017 at 18:17
  • 1
    @StellaBiderman Oh. You're interested in linguistics research. ELU (or meta.ELU) is probably not going to be forthcoming. Even linguistics.SE might not be able to offer much. I would go to more academic sites, like linguistics user groups or look in the syllabi for university classes in linguistics.
    – Mitch
    Nov 27, 2017 at 18:47
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    @Mitch a high-ranking user has multiple times criticized answers I've given to questions with comments such as "Do you really think that answering questions at this level is appropriate on a website devoted to linguists?" (direct quote) and when a question gets migrated from this sight to English Language Learners the text reads "This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts," so I had assumed that questions of English Linguistics were on-topic on this site. Nov 27, 2017 at 22:19
  • @StellaBiderman I totally think your question is appropriate on ELU main (with edits to remove ref requests). When you use the term 'linguistics' I just naturally think you want a lot more in depth linguistic analysis like parse trees and denotational semantics and the lot, which might be better served elsewhere. If you'd be happy with the kind of analysis you usually see here then, great, ask away. A good answer would also attempt to give some sort of reference. On-line is hard, there are few online references for grammar analysis (unless it is ESL style analysis, but maybe that's sufficient)
    – Mitch
    Nov 27, 2017 at 22:40
  • Some people have decided that reference requests are okay on Meta. Not all. Nov 28, 2017 at 23:41

This might be more of a work-around than an answer proper. Bare requests for papers are a mixed bag - there is some precedent for it, but aside from maintaining the canonical list of references, it's often frowned upon even in Meta.ELU, and definitely off-topic on the main site.

Answers on Stack Exchange are intended to be authoritative, and EL&U tends to insist on that. Being 'authoritative' includes citing and quoting references to accepted authorities (or extensive relevant personal experience, or logical argument, etc).

Instead of asking for references, try asking your question directly, making sure that it's clear you're targeting the linguists portion of the EL&U community, and close with a request for answers to cite relevant and authoritative papers. This should allow your question to be on-topic, interesting to the community, and still get you the references you're after.

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