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Last week, I asked this question: Can moderators redirect links from badly chosen duplicates to actual duplicates?

The answer (from moderator MetaEd) was

Moderators have the ability to edit the list of original questions that the duplicate question links to. They can delete links and also add new ones.

This leads me to a followup question today:

  • Can moderators change a close reason from 'Please show your research...' to 'Duplicate of...'?

To be clear, I'm asking here about whether, in a discrete case, moderators can go into a question that has been put on hold for the "Please show your research..." close reason and change the close reason to "Duplicate of X," when the fundamental problem with the question is that it has been asked and answered elsewhere on EL&U.


Implicit in my new question is a viewpoint that many site participants may disagree with: I think that a hierarchy of permanence, definitiveness, and usefulness exists in the close reasons on this site; that "Please show your research..." is the weakest, most formal, and (theoretically) most easily reversed of those reasons; and that "Duplicate of..." is one of the strongest and most useful of those reasons (if the closed question and its antecedent really are effectively identical).

Closing for "Please show your research..." expressly holds out the possibility that, if the poster shows research, the objection to the question will vanish and the question will reopen. In practice, of course, "Please show research..." plays a somewhat different role: It's the go-to justification for preemptively closing a question without having to weigh whether it is substantively interesting, on topic, and unique at EL&U. More often than not, I suspect, questions closed for "Please how your research..." are faulty for reasons other than their lack of visible research—and those other reasons impel reviewers in the Reopen Votes queue to vote to keep an uninteresting, off-topic, or duplicate question closed on the rare occasion when a poster does edit an on-hold question to show research.

Evidently, one point of view is that the express terms of the "Please show research..." close reason matter very little in comparison with the practical fact that this close reason enables reviewers to close low-quality questions quickly and keep them closed indefinitely, absent some unusual effort by the OP or others to show research and to demonstrate the value of the question.

But lost in this tendency to embrace "Please show your research..." as an exceptionally convenient close reason is the problem that using it sometimes forecloses identification of an objectively better close reason.

A case in point arose earlier today. The question Can "Myself" be used as a subject? was closed because (as the first four close voters noted) the poster didn't show any research. In fact, the body of the question consists entirely of this brief text block:

"Myself will attend the meeting." is it grammatically correct? I think Myself can't be used as a subject of sentence. I myself~ is correct, right?

If the close voters had done a bit of research on EL&U, they would have found that the site already has a question with the very similar heading "Myself" as a single subject and the body

How do we use myself as the only subject of a sentence?

For example I once heard some people saying Myself am to be blamed. Is this grammatically correct? How is it different from I am to be blamed?

It seems clear to me that the newer question effectively duplicates the older question (which, by the way, having been posted in August 2014, was not closed for "Please show your research..."). If we were to close the newer question as a duplicate, a reader who later happened upon "Can 'Myself' be used as a subject?" would be redirected to "'Myself' as a single subject" instead of being told rather unhelpfully that the question was closed for lack of research. In my view, identifying the newer question as a duplicate of an older existing question is desirable as a matter of site tidiness and—more importantly—as a matter of objective accuracy: "It's a duplicate of X" is a more definitive and more useful (to future readers) close reason than "Please show your research..."

But now we get to the procedural time-suck of trying to reopen a closed question so we can close it for a better reason than the one that close voters originally cited when putting it on hold. I can't imagine that very many people care enough about the rectification of names to pursue the work of reopening a closed question through popular voting in order to assign it a better close reason.

But perhaps we don't have to. If moderators have the power to alter close reasons with several clicks of a keyboard, it might make sense for what might pejoratively be called "anal-retentive individuals" (among whom I count myself) to bring the inferior close reason to the moderators' attention by flagging it, explaining why it is less desirable than a different close reason, and requesting that the mods change it to the superior close reason. Hence my questions:

  • Can moderators make such changes?

  • Is there any other alternative to the insane baseline method of voting to reopen in order to clear the way for voting to close for a better close reason?

  • While reviewers may not always be there to search for a link to the possible duplicates, I think "please include your research" also covers the idea that OPs should use the search bar at the top of the page before asking. – NVZ Dec 24 '17 at 7:03
  • @NVZ: Your suggestion that "Please show research" encompasses "Please search this site for duplicates" is interesting. My inclination is to wish that close voters would do more research themselves into whether a question is a duplicate before taking the easy route of noting that the post shows no research. But of course that would negate much of the point of having a close reason that permits snap rejections. – Sven Yargs Dec 24 '17 at 7:09
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Moderators can change the close reason of a question only by reopening and re-closing it. A moderator confirmed this in chat.

Voting to reopen (by 5 users) merely for the sake of closing it with another reason is unnecessary. We can leave comments under the question, instead, which will help guide or redirect OP and others to other relevant pages.

While it's nice to have reviewers invest extra time to search for possible duplicates instead of closing as "please include your research", I don't think most reviewers would spend the time to do that.

The close reason "please include your research" pretty much covers the idea that askers should "search, and research" before asking. It includes using the search function of ELU as well, where they would have found the possible duplicates themselves and would've either found what they were looking for or would have had to include why those results didn't help them when asking a question.

This is very well explained in the first part of the help page on how to ask. (Emphasis not mine)

Search, and research

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer!

  • Thanks for responding. I always check to compare my voting in the close queues to the voting of other reviewers, and I am well aware that you are a prolific, fair, and conscientious reviewer. Even so, I draw a distinction between looking up information to put in an answer for a poster who arguably should have been able to find the information without help and looking up information in order to establish the most accurate and useful close reason to apply to a deficient question. The latter, I think, implicates the reviewer's obligations to the site and to future readers, not to a lazy OP. ... – Sven Yargs Dec 24 '17 at 7:40
  • ...If a reviewer feels that there isn't time to do a thorough job of determining what the best long-term close reason is, that may be a sign that the reviewer should cut back a bit on the number of reviews he or she is undertaking. – Sven Yargs Dec 24 '17 at 7:40
  • @SvenYargs I for one have completed 18,000 reviews on ELU, and I may have gone digging for duplicates only under a thousand times. This is my service to ELU. If others are willing and able to look for duplicates on each review, more power to them! There is no need to cut back from reviewing per se. There is actually no long-term close reason needed. Most, if not all, closed questions are on death row, anyway. What matters is that we guide the OPs at the time the question is new, so leaving good comments is, in most cases, enough to overcome an incorrectly chosen close reason. – NVZ Dec 25 '17 at 6:44
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The main goal of closing a question as a duplicate is to create a link between that question and another question's answers to make them easier to find. The community can help link related questions by adding a comment with links to those questions so they show up in the sidebar. The "related" relationship persists even if the comment is deleted. This only goes so far, because the mobile version of the site doesn't show the "related questions" section (as far as I can tell).

If a question was originally closed for a lack of research, it is worth considering whether that question will eventually get a negative score that would cause it to be deleted. If the question was poor quality to begin with, it may not be that useful as a breadcrumb for future visitors.

If a question could be useful as a duplicate, I would edit it to give it a good title, correct any spelling or grammatical errors, format it, tag it properly, comment with a link to my dupe target, up-vote it, and then flag for a moderator to see if they will consider switching it from whatever close reason it has over to a duplicate. If any of the preceding seems like more effort than it's worth, I let it go. I know the up-vote may be controversial, but if the question is useful as a duplicate, I think the up-vote to keep it out of the jaws of the Roomba is merited.

  • Thanks for responding to the substance of my question, ColleenV. I think your advice is sound, and I will try to follow it. – Sven Yargs Dec 30 '17 at 21:18
  • @SvenYargs Also, links to related questions can be helpful for more than just possible duplicates. This question on ELL about "to see someone to bed" had a natural follow-on question (for EFL learners) of why there was no article before "bed". Linking to the existing answered question for the follow-ons might proactively prevent duplicates. – ColleenV parted ways Jan 1 '18 at 13:42

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