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Various questions, and perhaps also answers, (will) involve a description of a scenario to set the context. Then, this scenario could be a description of a real situation or fiction (or perhaps something in between).

What should be the etiquette related to this?

I am aware we cannot always know let alone enforce anything here. But what is the expected behavior or default assumption to make. I am especially interested to get opinions on this, since I believe different sites have different standards on this and it might be good to fix this for this site.

Some options to convey what I mean:

  1. A scenario has to correspond to a real situation.

  2. Hypothetical scenarios are alright but it should be mentioned they are fiction.

  3. Hypothetical scenarios are alright without mention.

  4. It is recommended for those who have a question based on a real situation to announce it in their posts. (Addition proposed by Saint Georg)


Added clarification: Since there seemed to be some confusion what I meant with "hypothetical" let me stress that I did not mean to discuss the issue to what extent it is alright to ask about things that one is not involved with personally or if context should be provided (this could also be discussed, but it is not what I wanted to do). Here, I only mean to fix our etiquette regarding the question:

Should assertions made in questions (and answers) concerning OP be assumed to be true or is fiction admitted. That is, would it be alright if I write: "In my work as an elementary school teacher I have [some porblem]." while not actually being an elementray school teacher.

With potentional answers 1. No this is not alright. 2. Doing this is alright for stylistic reasons but should be made clear. 3. This is fine. And so on.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you think, there are already questions related to points 2 or 3 on this site? Can you give examples? $\endgroup$ – Markus Klein Mar 28 '14 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ This is a fair question @MarkusKlein, but I do not want to come of as pointing fingers. So let me just say that some questions are clearly under 1. and I felt the question might need to be clarified. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Mar 28 '14 at 20:52
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    $\begingroup$ For the clarification of the questions of type 1, why didn't you consider the straightforward way? The option 4 could be as follows: 4. It is recommended for those who have a question based on a real situation to mention it in their posts. $\endgroup$ – user230 Mar 29 '14 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ As same as @MarkusKlein I am curious to know more on the background of this question. $\endgroup$ – user230 Mar 29 '14 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @SaintGeorg the list was not meant to be exhaustive, feel free to make other suggestions as you did. However, I do not understand what you mean to propose precisely. Do you mean to a) proposa a dual of my 2, that is say a scenrario in a question written in first person singular should only be assumed as real if OP in addtion mentions it is real explicitly, so that the default is 'scenarios are fiction.' or rather b) there should be a general guideline to include such scenario context and scenario context is to be assumed as real. Theoretically I could imagine both. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Mar 29 '14 at 10:31
  • $\begingroup$ @SaintGeorg my question was not motivated by a single isolated post (of yours or otherwise). Actually, I meant to raise the question earlier already. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Mar 29 '14 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ @SaintGeorg for equal visibility I included your proposal in OP as well. I hope this is in your interest. If not please let me know. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Mar 29 '14 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ @quid No problem. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – user230 Mar 29 '14 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ Could you please avoid deletions @SaintGeorg that change the meaning of the conveersation without signaling it. My second comment to you changes its meaning a bit now that one of yours is gone. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Mar 29 '14 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ Ah! Sorry about the comment. About deleting the answer I think based on your arguments in your comment it is no longer reasonable. $\endgroup$ – user230 Mar 29 '14 at 13:11
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I don't think that allowing hypothetical situations in the questions is a problem in general.

Some questions in this SE are on planning and preparing, which has some hypothetical moments, even for a real-world scenario.

For the answers, on the other hand, it's far more important to have them fact-based (either via citations or personal experience). If restricting hypothetical questions helps to restrict hypothetical answers, then it would be OK for me to restrict.

That being said, I think that a good question (even from a hypothetical situation) with good real-world answers is something we should be striving for.

But there is another implicit mechanism which makes it harder for hypothetical scenarios to be good question material: A good question gives as much detail as needed to generate good answers. This might be hard for real-world scenarios with a planning and preparing component, but it's even harder for hypothetical situations.

Because of this, I think that it's the best to go with option 2: Hypothetical scenarios should be allowed, especially considering interest-based questions and planning of future courses. However, it should be clear which kind of situation is presented.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree. Especially the point regarding the "implict mechanism" seems very relevant to me. $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Mar 28 '14 at 20:49
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I think, the focus should be on questions that someone was actually facing in the past (and wants to know alternative ways to solve it) or facing at the moment and due to preperation for the future. I think, most questions of the site should come from this direction.

However, in order to present a good question, you will normally describe an abstract point of view of your question and maybe go more into detail with the concrete example. The progres in making the question abstract is to some point artificial (but that is totally okay in my opinion).

There are other questions which are more artificial, e.g., to have some background information about teaching in general (e.g., What happened to the Moore method?) or to have some examples for daily usage in mind in case you want to explain something (e.g., What is a good motivation/showcase for a student for the study of eigenvalues?) - or questions focusing on preperation (e.g., How can I estimate the length of an exam?) as already mentioned in Roland's answer. I think, questions of this type are also good for the site even if someone does not mention if that is an artificial question.

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  • $\begingroup$ I agree that more abstract questions (the word artficial might have an unintended negative meaning) not explictly sketching out a scenario can certainly also be alright. I only meant to focus on those where there is one, and thus did not mention them. Possibly this made my question a bit unclear/ $\endgroup$ – quid Mod Mar 28 '14 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @quid Sorry, I meant "Hypothetical" with "artificial". Had the wrong word in mind when I wrote my answer. $\endgroup$ – Markus Klein Mar 29 '14 at 10:18

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