My question from earlier today, "I did want to" versus "I wanted to", was labeled as a duplicate. I can live with that. However, it appears that my reputation took a two-point hit. This I don't understand. I made a good-faith effort to search for the answer first and didn't find the specific one referenced (did shoot vs shot), so I asked my question. It wasn't a "dumb" question (there are some) and I believe it was polite and well written, so I'm don't understand why there is a penalty. Surely one isn't expected to read every question on the site before asking a new one, just-in-case. My question had one up-vote, and the one answer had four up-votes before it was shut down. This does not seem to be in the spirit of encouraging participation.

  • 4
    This is not a policy issue. Someone chose to downvote your post, we can't know who it was or why they did so unless they left a message. Don't take it personally.
    – terdon
    Sep 4, 2013 at 17:07
  • Guess I was/am confused because it still has a net +1, which led me to think it had not been down-voted. Not taking it personally, just that with no explanation, it seemed odd.
    – sfjac
    Sep 5, 2013 at 4:14

3 Answers 3


Questions asked must show some sort of effort or research. The first thing you must do before asking a question on any stack exchange site is searching through the specific site for a response. This is expected of any good user. Researching outside sources and including one's findings is something expected of excellent users. Answers to questions asked on Stack Exchange sites should not be able to be found in the first page of a google search. Here you can find helpful hints on how to search the Stack Exchange sites.

If a question is a duplicate, it very often means it was poorly researched. Most users will assume you have not done your homework. The quickness with which a question is marked as a duplicate can also be a likely indicator of the same.

If you did your research and found similar questions that don't quite provide the answer you are looking for, you should include them in the new question you are asking and explain how they are different from your own.

Here is the FAQ for the Stack Exchange sites, wherein can be found guidelines and hints about asking and answering questions. This is the FAQ subpage that specifically deals with duplicate questions.

These are EL&U's gudelines for asking questions.

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    This seems a bit harsh, especially on a site with 27,000 questions. Finding a duplicate can be like finding a needle in a haystack. In this case, the O.P. might have found the duplicate question by searching for the word 'did', and then searching through the 4,500+ questions that were returned. While I strongly agree that questions ought to show some research effort, I cannot agree with the assertion that "If a question is a duplicate it is by default a bad question." Such an assertion seems like a naive logical fallacy; one could do earnest research and not find the duplicate.
    – J.R.
    Sep 5, 2013 at 21:43
  • You raise a good point, although one would think a site with so few questions would be easy to search. Maybe not all duplicates are de facto bad questions. Some questions may be very difficult to find leading to duplicates. Concerning this particular question it was a bad question. I found both the question and the duplicate not too far down in the first page by searching "I did".
    – TsSkTo
    Sep 5, 2013 at 21:58
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    The fact that you were able to find a duplicate in this instance does not refute your unconvincing initial assertion, that a duplicate question somehow proves or infers a lack of research effort. Moreover, "research" in the sense of downvoting goes beyond searching the Stack Exchange site; if an answer was easily found via a search engine, I'd find that more egregious than a duplicate question buried in the Stack Exchange. Nevertheless, there's an art to searching, and not everyone is good at it. My issue is with your assertion that duplicate question ⇒ insufficient research.
    – J.R.
    Sep 5, 2013 at 22:16
  • You have convinced me, well partially. I would still argue that knowing the site your using and familiarizing yourself with its content is paramount for any good user. But a duplicate does not necessarily mean a bad question. I'll edit my answer to reflect this.
    – TsSkTo
    Sep 5, 2013 at 22:21
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    Especially on this site, it can be difficult to find duplicates. Our most frequently asked questions concern article usage (a, an, the), which are ignored by the search function. These cannot be easily found by users who don't know what these things are called, and also who don't know to look under the "frequent" tab. Asking a duplicate question just means that the OP thought of a good question that had already been asked, which is rather the opposite of a bad question.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Sep 5, 2013 at 22:51
  • Some possible "duplicate" questions have received better and more detailed answers than the originals. A case in question was mine, asked just two days ago english.stackexchange.com/questions/125239/…. I included the "duplicate" question but phrased mine in such a way that the answer I received was, in my opinion, clearer and superior to the answers posted in the dupe version.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 6, 2013 at 3:20
  • @KitFox The whole idea behind Stack Exchange is to provide cannonical answers and to serve as reference for future users. Just because I come up with a good question, doesn't mean I should instantly ask it here. If I am trully seeking an answer, my research should be considerably thorough. On the other hand, if I am only trying to get reputation, then any "good" question is sure to get an upvote.
    – TsSkTo
    Sep 6, 2013 at 7:44
  • @Mari-LouA I dont't consider your question a duplicate. It has research, links to the previous question and its individual answers. You addressed the problem and expanded the answer you found to be incomplete. The OP's post was three lines. It had no substance to it. It was a bad question and the downvotes it received are, in my opinion, justified.
    – TsSkTo
    Sep 6, 2013 at 7:56
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    TsSkTo: I'm finding it hard not to laugh at the notion of you (a member of the Stack Exchange for 31 days) giving @Kitfox (an elected moderator who has been on ELU for over two years) a miniature lecture about the purpose of the Stack Exchange. I'm pretty sure KitFox knows quite a bit about "the whole idea behind Stack Exchange." As I read through these comments, no one here is saying "Oh, that was a good question; it should not have been downvoted;" rather they are disputing the logic of your flawed arguments.
    – J.R.
    Sep 6, 2013 at 12:41
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    RE: "The quickness with which a question is marked as a duplicate signals the same. If the duplicate was easy to find by other users, it should have also been easy to find by you." Not true. I often find duplicate questions, not because they are easy to find, but because I know they are there, because I remember them being asked. The "quickness" of finding a duplicate is often related to how long a person has been active on this site, not how easily a duplicate can be found. We all agree research is essential, but, once again, duplicates are not in and of themselves evidence of poor research.
    – J.R.
    Sep 6, 2013 at 12:49
  • @J.R. The question then would be how difficult it is to find the duplicates. Unless you have them bookmarked, you will have to search for them yourself, which is something everyone can do. Just because you know they exist, that doesn't mean you know where they are. But yes, experienced users have an advantage. I do concede that a duplicate does not in itself serve as proof of poor research, however, I would say they are likely indicators. As for my "miniature lecture," I considered Appending " I thought the whole idea..." but it is not my style to be passive aggressive.
    – TsSkTo
    Sep 6, 2013 at 13:28
  • As I said in my initial comment, "Finding a duplicate can be like finding a needle in a haystack." That's all I was trying to say. An attitude or naive belief of, "We found this question, why couldn't you? You must not have done your homework..." seems both presumptuous and condescending. I strongly agree with the first sentence of all 8 revisions of your answer, but much of the rest of it seems shaky. Given that our purpose is to "provide cannonical answers and to serve as reference for future users," I could not let your assertions go unchallenged.
    – J.R.
    Sep 6, 2013 at 19:23

Hovering over the downvote button displays the following tooltip:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful.

I did read your question at the time. Although I didn't actually downvote it, I might have because your question did "not show any research effort". The only additional information in your question was that (paraphrasing) you often changed your mind about which to use. That gave me the impression of no research: here's the issue; I can't decide which to use when; please help!

As others have said, only the downvoters can explain why, but I would also say, do not assume that they are because it was considered a duplicate: they may have been for other reasons.


Is there a way it can be made compulsory to comment for all downvotes? This would be constructive, not only for the answer but also for the whole site. It will also encourage the voter to think and serve as a check on cowardliness.


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