Someone suggested this question was "clearly a homework assignment", and should be tagged as such.

Personally I have no real opinion on whether it's desirable or not for people ask "homework" questions on EL&U. If they're trivial General Reference they'll be closed anyway, but beyond that I see no point in trying to second-guess why a poster asks something.

In short, I think the homework tag is totally pointless. Apart from raising the point here, is there any other way of "voting" to delete it? Or finding out why anyone else thinks it should be kept?

  • THis is confusing. I looked for a 'homework' tag and couldn't find it. So what needs deleting?
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 0:23
  • I'm guessing you just clicked "Tags" here on meta, which has it's own list of tags that doesn't include "homework". The one in the main site definitely does - that's a hotlink to it in my question text, and I've just checked it still works. Follow it, and you'll see there are 16 questions on main with this tag. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 1:11
  • OK...I clicked on your link before and the default tab...well I didn't realize there were tabs. So now I get it.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 1:45

3 Answers 3


I don't see how the "homework" tag adds anything to EL&U. Even if a question is somebody's homework, if it's general reference we should still close it. We don't consider why people ask questions; we evaluate them on the merits of the question alone.

  • 2
    Finally, someone after my own heart! There's a related tag gre (Graduate Record Examinations) with only 7 questions. But at least that has 2 "followers", and I can "sort of" see some point to it. In general though, I think the more tags there are, the less likely it is that individual questions will be meaningfully and "correctly" tagged. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 18:23
  • I wouldn't have thought to look for a "gre" tag, but if I were preparing for the GRE and came across it I can imagine it being useful. I don't think that generalizes to "if I were a teacher I might look for good homework questions", though. :-) Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 21:24

Stack Overflow uses "homework" as tag, and it has the following description:

Homework means the asker is requesting help with school homework. This lets potential answerers know that they should guide the student in solving the problem, rather than simply showing the complete answer. Questions should only be tagged as homework when either the asker has said it is so, or when it is blindingly obvious.

There are some differences between Stack Overflow, and EL&U:

  • Stack Overflow doesn't have the "general reference" closing reason
  • on Stack Overflow, questions are generally how to write code for a specific purpose, or why a specific code doesn't work; there isn't a dictionary that shows the code to write

Does have a meaning on EL&U? I would say yes, as the OP is not supposed to use a dictionary, and suggesting to use a dictionary is not the answer I would expect (which is what the "general reference" closing reason would suggest). The tag should be used to say "don't tell me the answer; tell me how I can find the answer myself."

Clearly, questions that are not tagged and for which the answer is found in a dictionary are candidates to be closed as "general reference."

There are questions about homework that I presume would not be welcome on EL&U, but that it should not be because they are general references.

  • 1
    If I understand you aright, you're saying the tag is useful because it can serve as an indicator that a question shouldn't be closed as General Reference just because the answer could be looked up in a dictionary. But I can't see that would apply to any of the questions tagged homework (which has no synonyms, and no "followers" either). And it wasn't OP who tagged the one in my question - someone else wanted to, but didn't have the rep to actually do this. I rejected his proposed edit, but wanted to find out here how others felt about the matter. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:15
  • ...apparently there's no significant groundswell of opinion that it would be better to have a smaller number of useful and consistently-applied tags, so next time I'll simply leave any such edit and allow someone else to either approve or reject. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 17:17
  • There is a difference between a question that can be closed as general reference, and a homework question: With the latter, you are not supposed to say the answer. The purpose of the tag is just that. The fact a tag doesn't have synonyms doesn't mean anything, as it is not mandatory for a tag to have synonyms; the fact a tag has followers can be an indication of its usefulness, but again it's not mandatory for a tag to have followers. (I personally answer to questions on different SE sites, but I don't follow any tag.)
    – apaderno
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 18:39
  • We're drifting away from the original title of my question, which I see you've changed. It never actually occured to me that there'd be much support for the idea of having a homework tag at all. This was just an example for my substantive point of "Should we actively work at keeping the number of tags down, and if so how do I register my wish to remove any specific tag?" I don't have the tools/knowledge to check exactly, but after taking synonyms into account I expect 90% of all questions are covered by 10% of all tags. Which to me implies there are too many irrelevant/distracting tags. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 21:30
  • The title you used didn't match with what you are asking in your question; you are not asking about any unwanted tag, but you are asking about a specific tag. The answer to the generic answer is, "yes, we should," but that doesn't mean we should use a single tag for questions about adverbs, adjectives, verb tenses, and nouns.
    – apaderno
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 21:44
  • I'm not complaining about your edit as such. I can see now that the whole subject is awkward. I'm quite happy to see tags like adverbs, adjectives, verb tenses, and nouns. But, for example, there are just two questions tagged with count-nouns, both of which are also tagged with grammatical-number and mass-nouns. Surely count-nouns should either be deleted, or made into a synonym of one of those others? Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 21:56
  • I get that count-nouns is referring to countable nouns. I would rather remove that tag from both the questions.
    – apaderno
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 22:54
  • I take it that by I would rather remove you mean I will remove, or I have removed, since the tag no longer exists. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 3:26

There are 16 tags with homework...whatever the meaning of the term 'homework' is almost irrelevant; 16 uses is non-trivial, why the desire to get rid of it.

As to the meaning, why not? Is it hurting anything? Does noticing something is homework detract from its significance? Maybe someone wants to search for uses of ELU for homework at some point.

It's not obvious to me why such questions are 'bad' (or is it just the tag that is 'bad'). Maybe you could give your reasons why it is pointless and detracts from the usability of the rest of the system. Looking at other tags with less frequent use, I see many more tags (and questions) that should have time spent on removing before getting to 'homework', and frankly those 'lesser' questions don't really ask for being removed.

  • Following the princple of Occam's Razor - do not multiply entities unnecessarily. Why have this pointless tag? Specifically, what possible purpose is served by suggesting this tag be assigned to a question? Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 3:27
  • @FumbleFingers: your use of Occam's Razor is still appropriate for all the 16 or less. You haven't yet addressed what is so special about 'homework' that warrants it being singled out for removal against all the other entities.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 3:37
  • I don't know how to list tag usage counts, but nearly all the ones I've looked at on main are used far more often. And most of the less-used ones are useful categories in terms of language. uncountable-noun, for instance. Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 3:40
  • Go to the tag tab on main. Order by 'popular'. The homework tag is on the third page. There are lots more pages after that. What's so special about 'homework' that makes you want to get rid of it?
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 11:32
  • That "Sort by popularity" sequence is misleading. Most of the entries on the last page actually have about a thousand tagged questions, because all those tags have more popular synonyms. For example, what-do-you-call has the popular single-word-request as a synonym. IMHO homework is a highly-localised tag that simply isn't worth having. Do you really need me to expand on exactly why I think that? Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 16:23
  • @FumbleFingers: I don't particularly care one way or the other about this particular tag, but enoughbother people have used it for themselves. Why would you go to the trouble of denying its usefulness to them? So yes, you really do need to make a case for it's lack of usefulness. And because I'm blind to caring about this one tag, I blindly think that one should also have the same conversation about all the lesser tags (not just the misleading ones). So what is your case against 'homework'?
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 16:53
  • I wouldn't want to get too bogged down in this issue in a comment thread, but... Per comments on @kiamlaluno's answer, it seems he agrees with me that by default we should assume a case against any tag. The onus is on people who want to support a tag - they need to show why it's worth having, otherwise we should assume it's not wanted. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 19:07
  • @FumbleFingers:I don't see any justification for or against an onus at all. But it is easy to see that SE implicitly assumes -no- support; one can create a tag without justification, the cleanup comes later. So what kind of cleanup do you suggest for the 'homework' tag? By fiat removing it? That would be draconian and unwelcome by the 16 who used it. You could spend your time more successfully on the many 1's and 2's which presumably have very few supporters: see page 11 of tags. I personally don't like 'amount' or 'generic'.
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 20:15
  • Again, see the comments on @kiamlaluno's answer, from which it would appear he simply removed the tag without debate. Admittedly only two instances, but even a tag which might eventually prove wildly popular must start off with few references. I agree "amount" looks pretty useless, but thinking about it I suspect we get quite a few questions asking for "generic" terms, so possibly that one needs a bit more work to link it in where appropriate. Commented Nov 1, 2011 at 22:18

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