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https://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/96150/a-few-questions-on-sirius-black just came up on the Close Vote queue. Because it's asking several questions in one go, I VTCd as too broad.

Since this is a new user, by their own admission unclear regarding our rules on multiple questions, and since I know that we've allowed multiple-questions in other cases1, I thought I'd leave a comment explaining when it's okay and when it's not. Then I realized I didn't actually know; I have an instinctual idea, but no expressible criteria.

So my question: when is it okay to have a question with multiple sub-questions, and when is it considered "Too Broad"?


1 Although I'm struggling to find examples at the moment; I know I've come across questions with some variation of "And another thing" in them, and these questions not being closed

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    My feeling is that you just need to apply the "smell test". If it smells like it's too broad, vote for it. If it smells OK, leave it alone. – Valorum Jul 21 '15 at 21:27
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    @Richard Agreed, but it's nice to be able to back up (and validate) my intuition – Jason Baker Jul 21 '15 at 21:54
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    That post just felt too broad for me. My personal rule of thumb is there should be no more than two questions in a post, and, ideally, the questions should somehow be related. What truly bothered me about that post was that the OP was asking us for answers on questions that were easily found in canon -- it was a "homework" question, to which I say, Hey, get off your tookus and do the research yourself. My $0.02. :) – Slytherincess Jul 27 '15 at 5:18
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Subquestions are a good thing when their presence clarifies, pins down or narrows the scope of the original question. For example, the question I asked yesterday technically contains a few subquestions, but they serve only to clarify what I'm after in terms of an answer to my main question.

If the subquestions are all completely separate questions that don't clarify the main question in any way, they're probably bad. In the example you linked, they're obviously completely separate questions. Either you're left wondering which one is the "main" question you're expected to answer, or you end up writing a list of answers in one post.

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As a rule, we don't want more than one question per Question Post. This is a pretty universal Stack Exchange rule that, as far as I know, SF&F has adhered to pretty consistently since I've been a user.

The primary reason we don't want this kind of situation is because it makes it difficult to determine what the right answer is. Suppose you asked 3 questions in one post, and three different users posted the right answer to one question each. Which one is the correct answer? All three are right, and none is "more right" than any others. But that defeats the whole point of Stack Exchange sites: Person A asks a question, Persons B-D give answers, Person A accepts whichever answer is "right".

Sometimes, though, you'll see a question post that seems to ask multiple questions, but really doesn't. This is where the kind of grey area you are probably remembering comes in. If those "multiple questions" are really just facets of one bigger (but still answerable) question, it's less likely to get flagged as Too Broad.

In other words, it's all about the answer: if all of the "multiple questions" really have a single, right answer, then they really aren't different questions, just different ways to ask the same thing, and they'll probably get away with it. Otherwise, we need to strongly encourage the user to split their question up.

(Plus, asking multiple questions just means multiple chances to get rep, so it's a win-win.)

  • I mostly agree with this but I tend towards a little more leniency. To me, it's OK if the questions have different answers, as long as they're closely related, there aren't too many of them, and it's reasonable to expect that anyone who would be able to answer one of them would be able to answer all of them (the last part is key and avoids the problem you talk about with multiple disjoint answers). For example, to me, "When and where was Queen Elizabeth II born?" is OK. Splitting it into two would look like rep-farming. – David Richerby Aug 3 '15 at 9:43
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IMO more than one question is okay in circumstances where there is a clearly defined primary question and the sub questions can be answered with the same research or specific area of expertise. For example if you were to ask a question about light sabers in Star Wars such as:

How do Jedi construct their light sabers?

With the sub questions:

What parts do they need? Where do they get the parts?

That would be fine in my opinion as the sub questions are very closely related to the main question/topic and could very likely be answered by reading the same few paragraphs of a wiki or at least be linked in the same wiki entry. Note the answers to this sub question might actually be in a good answer anyway whether the OP asked them or not. However they certainly wouldn't be required for an answer to be correct.

Conversely with the same main question the sub questions:

What are the different forms of light saber combat? Are light sabers possible to construct in our universe?

Despite those questions all being about light sabers they aren't exactly related and the sub questions could certainly stand on their own as questions. They could also certainly elicit responses like this one:

I don't know about your first question but to answer the second...

Which to me is an indication that the question could be broken up in to separate questions.

  • These are excellent examples and completely nail the "it's reasonable to expect that anyone who would be able to answer one of them would be able to answer all of them" criterion I brought up in response to Michael's answer. – David Richerby Aug 3 '15 at 9:45

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