I encountered this question: https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/16758/does-deutronomy-2213-21-say-that-non-virgin-wives-will-be-executed. The claim is that Deuteronomy 22, 13-21 claims that if a wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed.

This is so easy to research, just google for online bible, or Deuteronomy 22. The FIRST Google result will take you to the appropriate place in the text. This shows that the OP didn't even try to google it (it's quicker to google it than to post the question).

Shouldn't questions show some minimal effort. I think the questions that can be answered fully by the first google search result, or that the answer appears on the subjects wikipedia page, the question should be closed.

Can we please not turn into "let me google that for you"

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    I think you're judging too fast. One thing is reading an ancient book (anyone) and understanding the words, and a very different thing is understanding the meaning. Perhaps the question is better fitted to hermeneutics, but I don't think marriage between widowed peopled is forbidden by the Mosaic Law under death penalty. Jun 27, 2013 at 19:31
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    @belisarius Interpreting the bible would be off-topic here, so we have to assume that the question is asking whether the text mentions this in absence of any interpretation or additional context.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Jun 27, 2013 at 19:36
  • @belisarius - the only prohibition on marrying a widow is for Kohanim, as far as I recall. But i'm far from an expert.
    – user5341
    Aug 6, 2013 at 19:39

4 Answers 4


What you're describing is pretty much the "General Reference" close reason that has been used on a few SE sites, but was never rolled out network wide. While the general idea of closing extremely basic questions has merit, this is one of the more dangerous and easily misused close reasons. The problem with it is that nobody can agree on what exactly "too basic" is, and where to draw the line.

But it can work under specific circumstances, if there is an objective criterium that would eliminate the need for judging the level of the question. For sites like English this is e.g. asking for something that is directly answered in a dictionary.

One circumstance where I think such a close reason could work here would be for anything that is answered in the original source itself. And while the original source for the claim here is Facebook, I think extending this to a directly quoted and easily accessible source would be justifiable.

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    As an fyi - General Reference was KILLED by a community meta vote on SFF.SE half a year ago or so; because it was a terrible idea which generated far more harm than benefits.
    – user5341
    Jun 28, 2013 at 17:36
  • Excellent point re where to draw the line. I think this one clearly fails, because it's a direct quote. (And I agree with your response to Belisarius that if it's about interpretation - or even translation - it should at least be on a diff SE.) But, there are a lot of questions I've seen that the community seems to find valid, even though it looks like an easy Google/Wiki/etc to me.
    – hunter2
    Jul 5, 2013 at 11:01

In the present case, OP already knew where to find the information he was looking for; thus, he was much closer to the answer than someone asking "Do (or did) christians believe that spouses who are not virgin should be killed?". I think a line between "acceptable" and "unacceptably basic" can be quite clearly drawn here.

The answerers were merely expected to find this Deutronomy 22, go to the right line, and copy-paste its content to Skeptics.SE. This is a job for Firefox's CTRL + F, not for a human.


If you hover over the downvote arrow for a question, the text that appears is: "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful".

So there's your answer. If the question is something that demonstrates absolutely no research, then downvote it. It costs you 0 reputation to downvote a question.

As DVK mentioned in a comment above, the General Reference close reason was used to handle these sorts of questions on scifi.se for a long time, and the results were a complete mess. I strongly advocate that we do not consider General Reference closure as a solution for these types of questions; its too arbitrary, difficult to define, and an all-around source of aggravation.


I searched to see if anyone had addressed this claim before asking the question. I came across http://runwolf.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/gay-people-read-the-bible-too/ , which was doubtful of the claim.

In hindsight, I should have included that in my question. I chose not to because I was worried it would have biased my question.

  • I think the objection is that you only needed to read a specific passage. I wouldn't have minded the question if you simply asked if the bible contained that. Jun 28, 2013 at 14:02
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    Your question came off very very different than what you intended. It came off as you asking for bible passage, when you was looking more for bible passage's interpretation.
    – Wertilq
    Jun 28, 2013 at 14:02
  • @WilliamGrobman What do you mean by "I wouldn't have minded the question if you simply asked if the bible contained that."?
    – Golden Cuy
    Jun 30, 2013 at 0:47
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    @Andrew If you hadn't had the specific passage already. This question was just absurdly easy (or off topic if an interpretation was needed). Jun 30, 2013 at 2:18

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