Very often we get questions of the form "What does XYZ mean?", without any context to allow us to understand how "XYZ" is being used. (Eg, Meaning of “Sanely Insane”?.) One can close these as "unclear", but that itself is unclear in that it fails to refer to the lack of context.

Should one just do "Other" -- "Lacks context", or should there instead be a "proper" closing code (with some documentation behind it)?

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    Doesn't "Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking" satisfy this requirement? It may need a comment saying that the additional details required are those of context, but surely we have a close reason which can be used.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Sep 29, 2016 at 20:43
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    @AndrewLeach - When someone asks "What does slfpai mean?" they are apt to believe that they couldn't be any clearer.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 29, 2016 at 22:27
  • Well, that's going to be closed as "lacks research". Many online dictionaries include example sentences, and the {research} link in the message links to a demonstration of the sort of research which can be expected. If there is some research, but context is needed, we have the "unclear what you are asking" reason, which can be accompanied by a comment as I posited above.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Sep 30, 2016 at 8:47

2 Answers 2


It may be buried, but the requirement for context is covered by the "unclear what you're asking" close reason.

The "unclear" close reason contains the text

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

The "How to Ask" page contains this help, amongst other information:

Be specific

If you ask a vague question, you’ll get a vague answer. But if you give us details and context, we can provide a useful answer.

This is the reason to use where context is required. Context "clarifies the specific problem". A useful answer requires the question's context.

It may also be helpful to add a comment to the answer explaining why context is necessary (and what that context might be, to give a specific example to assist the asker).

There may be a case for amending the closure text, but as it's not something under moderator control — and neither is the How to Ask page, either — we would need to demonstrate some consensus about wording in order to ask TPTB to make the change. However, it is this close reason which needs to be changed if context is to be asked for explicitly.

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    The problem is that if a question is closed with "unclear" because it lacks context, the user will not understand that. Not one in 100 reads the "How to ask" text, and those that do skim it once and forget it. Plus, when a question is closed, few users are going to scan the comments for further information on WHY their question was closed -- they will read the closing message and say "What do you #*&% mean 'UNCLEAR'?? I asked 'What does big red peach mean?' It could not be any clearer than that, you #^%$ assholes."
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 29, 2016 at 12:36
  • That's why it needs a comment (at the moment), or for the reason text to be changed (perhaps). But if users can't be bothered to follow links and read how to use this site, then surely we really don't want them.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Oct 29, 2016 at 13:45
  • Do you have many idea how many lines of "help" text there are for this site and the SE sites? No one, other than some EL&U anchorite, is going to actually read all the text, much less memorize it.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 31, 2016 at 0:30

Since it's my understanding that the overall number of close reasons is limited and the number of custom one's is three (Cf. Meta.SE), we can't add one. Currently we have general references, missing example sentence, and proofreading in the custom slots.

I would like to enhance the unclear reason with another sentence that concerns lacking context. However, I do not know if that's the kind of request that can or will be granted by the powers that be.

I had a quick look at what the SEDE tells us about our (non-deleted) close reasons since the close reasons were revamped. Unfortunately, the custom reasons are clumped together. I don't know if the 10K or mod-tools reveal more.

101 : 4966 (Duplicate)

102 : 6766 (Off-Topic: Custom Site Reasons)

103 : 1454 (Unclear)

104 : 403 (Too Broad)

105 : 1311 (Primarily Opinion Based)

  • I don't think we need to add one. "Lacks research" is sufficient for the example given.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Sep 29, 2016 at 11:48
  • @KitZ.Fox - "Lacks research" is far from the point and apt to only add confusion.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:00
  • @HotLicks I disagree. The thing that is missing is support, which is what research will give the question.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:05
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    @KitZ.Fox - He can research what "abjduk" means up the wazoo, including three pages of dictionary and wiki text in his post, but without context it's meaningless. (Note: I'll admit that my example above is far from classic and has several deficiencies, not just a lack of context. But it was the one I had at hand at the time.)
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:12
  • @HotLicks if a person researches up the wazoo and posts the research, by necessity the context will be revealed. You can't research without invoking context.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:14
  • @KitZ.Fox - Three dictionary entries and a wiki article don't explain how the word is being used. Eg, what does "posts" mean?
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:25
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    @HotLicks Posting links to definitions is only part of it, right? You post the definition and then explain why you don't understand it, and in order to explain it, you naturally need to put context. "It says the word means 'biffo', but I thought that was a tub of foo and so how can you spread that on toast?" Ha, now we know they expect it is something you can spread on toast.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Sep 29, 2016 at 12:33

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