I would like to open a discussion on this matter, because to the best of my knowledge, there has not been an answer covering, poorly researched questions in Tex SE.

For clarity purposes I am not talking about: Our Do-it-for-me and Draw-it-for-me comments don't reflect our hypocrisy. Can they be improved? or “Draw this for me” etiquette.

What I am referring to, are questions that are not low quality, do not have long, complicated solutions and could be resolved by a careful Google search. There are not low quality since they are valid questions but at the same time these questions could be resolved by looking instead of asking.

Made up examples:

  • "How can I make my figure/table/equation/... do this".

  • "How do you do this", which "this", is something specific that can be resolved by including the appropriate package.

These are valid questions and more people might have them but since, a solution has already been provided (on the internet not in Tex SE) and it is easy to find and implement, shouldn't they be distinguished from the rest of the questions? Like the Documentation section in SO.

Should these questions be treated as "Do-it-for-me" questions, should they be flagged as low-quality or is there an alternative way of handling them?

  • 3
    If such a question already exists, mark it as duplicate. If there is no answer on TeX.Stackexchange but somewhere else on the internet, consider if you can write an answer and maybe link to this "somewhere on the internet". Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 17:01
  • @samcarter - I am specifically, talking about questions with no answers in Tex.SE, where the answer would be a couple of lines copied from somewhere else. Shouldn't these "simple" solutions be documented as traits of Tex instead?
    – gnikit
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 17:05
  • My question refers to a prefered way of dealing with questions when the individual asking, is not aware of the simple solution that exists
    – gnikit
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 17:11
  • 4
    For a quick help, leave a comment to where the information can be found, but in the long run Stackexchange tries to be self sustained, so write an answer to the question and judge depending on the situation to include a link where to find the solution elsewhere. Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 17:16
  • 5
    We have many careless users, that just drop in to get their LaTeX issue solved. I ignore them most time now...
    – user31729
    Commented Apr 13, 2017 at 17:56
  • I'd write an answer showing the OP how the solution could be easily found on the internet or in the package documentation. (Is this one an example of what you intended? If it is, see my answer there).
    – CarLaTeX
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 6:45
  • 3
    All LaTeX issues can be resolved by RTFM and a few hours of thinking. If people would invest the time to read and think about LaTeX, they wouldn't get their real stuff done. And we wouldn't have anything to do.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 7:15
  • 7
    If you don't know the correct term, you cannot find stuff. Or thinking about X while really wanting to do Y. Could be solved with a minute using Google, but it requires to know Y in the first place.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 7:17
  • 1
    I don't think that it is in any way straightforward for a novice to solve a problem via Google. First, as Johannes said, you need to know the right terms. Second, maybe more important, the right solution depends on many factors that a beginner is not even aware of. Consider the many questions about modifying the section headers, toc etc. Depending on the document class one has to proceed differently, and copying some code from the internet is wrong most of the time. This is exactly what we should not encourage. The best choice is still to ask someone.
    – gernot
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 21:59
  • @gernot - I agree with you in the sense that we should encourage questions and not copying, I myself have a lot, since I am far from an expert in the field, but at the same time shouldn't we prompt novice users to learn the basics instead of giving them the solution? Also, these questions wouldn't be better suited for a Documentation section, if one existed?
    – gnikit
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 22:29
  • 2
    Well, who reads documentation? Those interested in TeX do some reading first, but many users are more or less thrown into latex by someone requiring them to use it. In the beginning TeX is an obscure language, and it is hard to understand why it is preferable to Word etc. This is particularly true if you are not a computer scientist and are not fascinated by programming instead of writing. For such people it is easier to ask and to learn on the fly.
    – gernot
    Commented Apr 14, 2017 at 22:39
  • One should not force somebody to use a special program, nor should one force to read some documentation. All we can do is encouraging to read documentation.
    – Johannes_B
    Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 16:26
  • Part of the problem: Often, when I do such a search, I come up with questions (and solutions) involving a very complicated, special instance that is unrelated to my own question. It is difficult to discern whether or not the discovered Q/A has more general applicability. Easier to just ask. Also gives others the opportunity to just answer!
    – user103221
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 21:57

1 Answer 1


Every so often this sort of question comes up, and although it gets posed usually as 'etiquette' it's often more about 'policing' or 'teaching people a lesson'. Personally I think such 'policing' behaviour is never productive for the site.

As others have noted in the comments, most things can be figured out by reading the documentation or Googling. But documentation isn't always the easiest thing to read (even though some is very good) and users may not be native English speakers, in which case reading documentation may be more difficult than you might think.

When I see a fairly simple question, I often google for things that would appear in an answer. This allows me to find duplicates on the site quite easily. But I'm googling because I know what the answer should be. But the person asking the question presumably doesn't know that, so their googling task is in fact much harder.

With respect to RTFM type answers, I think it's always helpful to point out that the answer can be found in the documentation, but only if you are willing to provide an answer independently.

But if you don't want to do that, then don't. All of us have different motivations for answering and participating on the site. If you don't think a particular kind of question should be answered, then simply ignore it, and answer the questions that you find interesting and worth answering.

If others want to answer these questions, they will, and that should be fine.

  • I did not mean to come across as someone who is either willing to or more importantly, capable of policing and suppressing questions from being asked. What I had in mind while asking this question was: 1. If I was unaware of some 'rule' that I should be following while answering these types of questions and 2. The long term "cluttering" that can be caused on Tex.SE by having numerous similar, but not identical questions. Your answer covered the former and for the latter, when it happens, if it happens, I am sure a solution will be found!
    – gnikit
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 5:30
  • I respectfully disagree with your answer. Just minutes ago, I came across a question that I consider an example of pure lazyness; it was a real "do it for me" question. It was answered. I read questions because I want to help, but also because I expect to learn something from the answers and comments by knowledgeable posters. Such poor questions are, IMHO, already cluttering the site. I can only speak for myself, but this makes the site a lot less attractive. I would be happier if there was a policy that this type of question should be strongly discouraged.
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 11:37
  • 2
    @Thomas You cannot clutter a site for questions and answers with a question. Past the first page you hardly would ever see it. There is no way that you could be bothered by this other than policing others. Ask any question and I will definitely find flaws in them or find duplicates in about an hour. That's just not the right attitude for this site.
    – percusse
    Commented Apr 22, 2017 at 1:46
  • @percusse 1. "You cannot clutter a site for questions and answers with a question." Of course you can. With poorly researches questions. That was the whole point of this topic. 2. "other than policing others. [...] That's just not the right attitude for this site." You seem pretty comfortable with "policing others."
    – Thomas
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 12:13
  • @Thomas 1. you can't define research other than imposing your personal flavor 2. do your research, all those links are my posts in OP. See it's very fun to use the research card right? Did you enjoy it?
    – percusse
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 12:16
  • @Thomas There's a qualitative difference between telling users on the main site "Do your research (according to my standards) or we won't answer your question" and percusse and I saying in Meta "live and let live" (i.e., roughly the very general advice "If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all".)
    – Alan Munn
    Commented Apr 23, 2017 at 14:36

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