It is clear that many close-voters use the "commonly available references" option as a catchall for questions that they just don't like for one reason or another, regardless of whether the answer to the question can actually be found in a commonly available reference. Not only is this capricious, unfriendly, and unfair, but by making it difficult for a reasonable person to determine what is or is not "off-topic" here, it actually encourages the submission of low-quality questions. This is exactly the situation that SE Community Coordinator Shog9 was hoping to avoid when he strongly urged us to clearly define what constitutes General Reference at this site—which we have never done. I therefore submit a proposal that, alone or in concert with the other proposal I am submitting today, will help resolve the current untenable situation.
I recommend that a new off-topic option be created that reads as follows:
Questions that are too basic or uninteresting are off-topic. For more information, see: (new Help Center page)
The new Help Center page would give guidelines for determining whether a question is too basic or uninteresting. Please use the answers to this question to start building content for the new Help Center page.
I think that closing questions for being "too basic" or "uninteresting" is a horrible idea that will never work, for reasons I've expressed at length elsewhere, but I do not believe it can reasonably be denied that that is, in fact, what we do. That being the case, and pardon me for being blunt, the current system—in which voters decide first that a question is "bad" and then pick a close reason as a cynical ex post facto rationalization for turfing it—is dishonest and makes liars out of those who willingly participate in it. We owe it both to the greater Internet-using public and to ourselves to explain simply and accurately why we choose to close questions.
With this new option in place, we'll be able to limit use of the General Reference option to questions that can actually be easily looked up, rather than sending the OP on a wild goose chase looking through online dictionaries for help with their comma splice problem, except that they don't know it's a comma splice problem because we closed their question as GR rather than telling them that it's a comma splice problem.
So if you've been looking for an option you can use to close questions you just don't like, here it is at last. Use it in good conscience. Own it.
Also see: Proposal: Require a whitelisted URL to close as General Reference. I've tried raising these issues before, and nothing came of it. It's time for some straightforward, actionable proposals that can be accepted or rejected. I have made two separate proposals because I believe they can be effective singly or together, and should be voted on independently of one another. Personally, I would prefer to reject this one and enact the other one, but anything would be preferable to the current practice of saying one thing and doing another. On a website that's explicitly devoted to communication, let's at least make a concerted effort to say what we mean and mean what we say.