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This is a spin-off suggestion from Add a 'too basic' close reason. I put forth that we already do have a 'too basic' reason, General Reference, but the wording should be improved. Here is what I suggest:

It appears that your question might be answerable through commonly-available references. Please provide more detail about the research you've done, or consider if the question might be better suited to our English Language Learners sister site.

Updated from comments:

This addresses the three buckets of questions that I believe commonly fall into the GR dumping ground. Ones that:

  • Definitely could be answered using commonly-available references.
  • Show no evidence of research, so it seems like they might be answered by common references. If the OP adds evidence of what research they did and why they're still confused, it might actually be a good question.
  • Are too basic / obvious to native speakers, and don't fall within this site's charter. They might be good questions for ELL, but maybe not. There have been various discussions (like this one) that hint that an auto-migration path to ELL may never exist, even after it graduates.

I would not oppose having three separate close reasons, but I think we're limited in how many we could have.

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    Yes. At least one option that is in the list to look at ELL as an option, even if it's in perpetual beta. – SrJoven Dec 3 '14 at 14:50
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    @SrJoven, ELL has already been nominated to the graduation queue. It's hung up in the SE-internal design process. The SE designers have to pick an icon, color scheme, etc, before ELL can be officially released. It's an opaque and not particularly fast process. – Dan Bron Dec 3 '14 at 15:19
  • @DanBron - Yes, but even when it does graduate apparently there's been some contention over whether there will or should be an auto-migration option from ELU. We can always remove the ELL reference if and when there ever is. – Lynn Dec 3 '14 at 18:52
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    I don't see how this does anything to solve the underlying problem that GR is being used to close questions that cannot be answered using common references. – phenry Dec 3 '14 at 19:22
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    @phenry - It addresses questions that (1) could be answered using commonly-available references or (2) lack sufficient evidence of research to show whether or not they could be answerable using common references or (3) belong on ELL because they're too basic. I would not oppose having three separate close reasons, but I think we're limited in how many we could have (which is partly why GR becomes such a dumping ground.) – Lynn Dec 3 '14 at 20:15
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    @Lynn, that elaboration is worth adding to your answer. – Dan Bron Dec 3 '14 at 23:15
  • @Lynn. ELL has close reasons that match (1) and (2) so it would be frustrating if all those questions were encouraged to be re-asked there. – starsplusplus Dec 16 '14 at 12:36
  • Although on second thoughts J.R. has a good point with I'd rather get more newcomers aware of both sites early than keep them in the dark just because of potential cross-postings. – starsplusplus Dec 16 '14 at 12:38
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I support Lynn's argument and suggestion.

I believe it's up to the asker to demonstrate that a question is not answerable by General Reference, and research is the way to do that. A question is only put on hold not closed outright, in order that it can be reworked and re-opened [brought off-hold]. So saying that a question is answerable as General Reference is the same as asking for more research.

Provide details. Share your research (from Ask Question page)

I've already written an answer about research, which appears to have been well-received (apart from one member of the community, anyway).

With regard to suggesting ELL, I'm not sure that this message is the place to do that, because it will result in cross-postings. It's better for members of the community to vote to close and flag for migration. Bear in mind that bad questions should not be migrated. Bad questions should be improved and then (if they are off-topic) be migrated to a site where they are on-topic.

Consequently I propose that the General Reference reason be amended to something close to Lynn's suggestion:

It appears that your question might be answerable through commonly-available references. Please provide more detail about the research you've done, in order to demonstrate that the answer is not easily available.

There is scope for the target of the "research" link to be a different answer, or even a new custom-crafted question and answer: please use comments on this answer to suggest replacement links.

Using this suggestion brings the need for research from the "How to Ask" checklist into the on-hold reason. It means that we can retain the other two current custom close reasons:

Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests

Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified.

They too could probably be improved; but we can leave that for a separate discussion (If you want to discuss them, please don't use comments here; write a fresh question).


I've based this suggestion on previous discussions and votes:

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    I like the general idea of this more general 'general reference', but I have trouble with the phrase "in order to demonstrate that the answer is not easily available." That's kind of difficult to do especially with grammar...grammar rules are just not easily googlable. – Mitch Dec 6 '14 at 21:13
  • That's fine. Provided that the research which has been done is stated. The problem is questions which are seen to have no effort already expended. – Andrew Leach Dec 6 '14 at 21:16
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    Good points! One thing to note about the ELL reference is that it's a nod to the fact that a novice English speaker may be unable to do the research themselves. That may or may not make it a bad question for ELL. That said, I support your alternate wording - it's certainly better than what we have now. – Lynn Dec 6 '14 at 22:45
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    Personally, I like the ELL reference. Some of the questions that get closed on ELU would make decent ELL questions; others would be good on the second try (assuming the O.P. added a little research, if necessary). I'd rather get more newcomers aware of both sites early than keep them in the dark just because of potential cross-postings. Lastly, if it does get cross-posted, and it's a better ELL question, just delete it from ELU. – J.R. Dec 7 '14 at 0:42
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    It may be possible to alter the Ask Question page (and in particular, that How To Ask panel) to highlight the existence of ELL -- in which case, I suppose, it would be reasonable to bring ELL into the close message in much the same way as research. – Andrew Leach Dec 7 '14 at 10:50
  • As long as we're tallying meta questions, I humbly suggest that the community response to Show Me the Reference! indicates that, broadly speaking, grammar and syntax questions should not ipso facto be considered GR. – phenry Dec 8 '14 at 17:49
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    I stand by my stance that GR should be assumed unless the question can be shown not to be GR. A modicum of prior research, included in the question, is sufficient to do that. Even searching on ELU may well turn up something of use. If you want to dissent, then please write a contrary answer here which can be voted on and taken into consideration. – Andrew Leach Dec 8 '14 at 18:39

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