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I've seen lots of questions, especially ones on the 'sources-mekorot' tag, that ask questions along the lines of, "where is the source that X", or "I've heard/seen practice X", etc. (in other words, the question is looking for a source. Sorry if that was super obvious).

Many of these questions have comments that ask the questioner to provide details for why they think that there is such a source. I certainly understand that we don't questions that are looking for sources where none exist. But on the other hand, it seems to me like many of the moderators have very high standards for what exists as a legitimate source-seeking question, and it isn't clear to me what makes some of them 'good' questions and some not.

For example, a question asks about a Jewish source for "why babies are born without teeth" (which has upvotes and no challenging comments), and a question looking for the source that a Chazzan bow with the Torah when saying 'Godlu' is similarly unchallenged and upvoted. On the other hand, many questions that begin with 'I've heard/seen' are challenged, as well as questions that seek sources explaining minhagim that the questioner doesn't bother to explain (ex: repeating Ashrei).

See this comments section on a question regarding answering Amein, where there seems to be some confusion about this. It would be nice if we had a meta post to link to instead of going through these kinds of comments any time a question tagged 'sources-mekorot' comes up.

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    How would you respond to "What is the source that one must ride an elephant to shabbat evening meals served in a sukkah when the sukkah is to the northwest of your house?" – Double AA Jul 13 '14 at 18:00
  • @DoubleAA as above, "I certainly understand that we don't questions that are looking for sources where none exist." So what are the parameters? Can't it be enough that someone asks "I've heard that ___" even if it is about elephants? I doubt we'd get too many – הנער הזה Jul 13 '14 at 18:02
  • "Enough" for what? To not be deleted? Ok sure. – Double AA Jul 13 '14 at 18:03
  • @DoubleAA and yes, this is a parameters question (to bad we don't have a meta-meta-site for me to ask this: meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/2094/…) – הנער הזה Jul 13 '14 at 18:03
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    @DoubleAA Your comment reminded me of this meta post – Shokhet Jul 13 '14 at 21:37
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I can't speak for others, but when I leave such comments I'm seeking clarification, not challenging the question. If somebody says "I've heard" or "I've seen", I naturally ask "where?" -- not as a challenge but, rather, because if you tell us where you've encountered the teaching/practice/idea, it can help prospective answer-ers to investigate. We want to help askers get good, well-supported answers to their questions; knowing a little more about the context of the question helps with that.

Sometimes people don't know -- you remember learning something in a class somewhere but that's all you know. (I've asked questions from that starting point!) But if you do have more information, please try to supply it.

  • +1 I think that's what @DoubleAA is getting at as well. I was hoping there would be a meta question about this to link to in the future – הנער הזה Jul 13 '14 at 18:05
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Some questions looking for sources (you linked to one in your question, and that user has had several similar questions) clearly start with a source, but they are hiding the ball. It is too specific to be otherwise (how did they know that elephants are only required for the north west, but north east allows for horses?).

Essentially they saw something specific (perhaps in some kind of compendium that didn't include sources) and then want to know the source. In that case failing to include that source almost makes it a riddle question, and at least makes it a very poor question.

A much better question would ask the general idea without assuming the conclusion from the compendium, and then add in that the compendium addresses it X way, what sources support that, and what other opinions are there? That makes for a quality question - defined as a question which solicits quality answers.

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