Is it desirable for people to ask a homework question here?

Set aside for now the question of how this would be enforced. I'm more interesting in the policy question, and in our goals. Is this desirable? Do we want people to post their homework questions here? Do we want to post complete answers to homework questions?

One example, which might have been such a homework question (at least it looked like this in the revisions before my edit). – Paŭlo Ebermann Sep 26 '11 at 10:26

I agree mostly with Paŭlo's answer, except on one bit:

- argh. I personally am more likely to ask basic questions, when I finally get some free time. However, none of them are homework. I don't study cryptography in an official at-a-place-of-education capacity. So I strongly dislike the homework tag for two reasons:

  1. It actually adds nothing more to the question than or . It might not even be accurate in terms of whether the question is actually homework.
  2. It creates a culture of "is this homework?" comments, usually three or four at a time. These are not remotely helpful. Nobody cares, because:

The descriminant is whether the question is fundamentally well typed out and shows prior research/a clear problem, not whether it may or may not be an assignment. In fact, if it is an assigment and shows prior research and a well thought out question, the homework is clearly doing its job of getting people to think about the problem space, a process which will take them from being students to researchers in the field.

So, in short, I am not so keen on meta tags like homework. I think taking it case by case, closing blatant no-effort questions and encouraging effort questions, whether homework, basic or whatever, is the way forward. i.e. Paŭlo's "type 2" question.

The [homework] tag would signal "I don't want a whole answer, only some tips", mainly. You are right, it could have negative side effects, and we could do without it. – Paŭlo Ebermann Sep 29 '11 at 22:37
@Paulo: if the poster only wants tips, he can indicate so... by writing exactly that: "I don't want a whole answer, only some tips". Tags are usually meant to allow for classification. The "only tips" bit is a constraint on answers but does not change the question itself in any way -- hence it has nothing to do with tags. – Thomas Pornin Sep 30 '11 at 13:49
Looks like the homework tag has snuck in. There are 33 questions with this tag. – mikeazo Mar 24 '14 at 13:50

Since nobody else did answer yet, here is my take.

There are several kinds of homework question.

  1. Please solve my task. This consists mostly of a copy+paste (or retyped) task from a homework sheet, with or without indicating this fact, and without showing any own research effort. Computational unbounded adversary in its first revision might be an example. (Anything with a sentence starting with "show" is a good indication for this.)

    In this form it is certainly a bad question, and deserves a downvote for does not show any research effort.

  2. Here is my task, I already did this part, and I have now this problem. Here is what I tried, but which didn't work.

    Here the asker does not want a complete solution to his problem, but has solved it partly himself, and wants some hint on how to proceed. My experience with SE (not Crypto) shows that these types of question are quite more likely to be accepted by the community, as they show research effort, and also make clear where exactly the help is needed.

Is the following statement about PRG true or false? is somewhere between these two kinds, I think – it at least shows "what did I try", but it does not include the (here necessary) definition of a PRG.

There might actually be interesting questions hidden in there, but to be good questions, they need some rewording to not look like a homework task. I think I did so with my edit to the first linked question.

Of course, handing a complete solution is normally not really in the interest of the asker (even if he is not aware of this) – avoiding this is easier to do for the second type of question. We could also think about including a tag in these questions – any opinions about this?

Am I correct that this is a perfect example of a “Please solve my task” question? – e-sushi Nov 7 '13 at 23:23

I don't think we should be answering questions tha are clearly copied out of a textbook/homework assignment.

Effectively we are letting people cheat. Worse, if they are taking a crypto class as part of a computer security program , they will actually go screw stuff up that matters when they get hired somewhere and people (erroneously) assume they are competent.

There is some argument to be made for helping people with a homework problem. However, when all they did was copy the question out of the textbook and couldn't be bothered to ask some question about the subject matter, they don't want help, they just want the answer.

If they cheat in their homework without learning in the progress, they'll do worse in the exam. Cheaters who only want to know the answer, not help, only hurt themselves. So I don't really understand your point. – CodesInChaos Oct 4 '13 at 12:57
@CodesInChaos, it's not that simple. If you set candy and ice cream in front of me, I might be tempted to eat it, even though I wouldn't go down to the corner store to find it. We are evolved to like sweet things that aren't good for us. Similarly, we are evolved to avoid thinking hard (our brains consume a lot of energy, so our body has many mechanisms to try to spare us from thinking hard). If you set a worked-out solution to a homework problem in front of a student, they might be tempted to take it instead of thinking hard. But by doing that, we're not doing them any favors. – D.W. Dec 5 '13 at 21:28
(cont.) It's not about "cheating". Students often think they're being helped if we answer their homework question, but actually, they are being served badly: they're losing out on the chance to actually learn the material by trying and thinking hard about it. I don't think we should be answering questions that are clearly copied out of a book -- not because of cheating, but because it isn't helping them, and because they aren't following site rules. Site rules say that people need to do serious research on their own before asking. Just copying a problem out of a book doesn't cut it. – D.W. Dec 5 '13 at 21:30

This has come up a couple of times over the last few days, so I thought I'd comment: I don't think a is a good idea, but a would be very useful for allowing authors to mark their own posts as "Please do not provide an entire answer just some directions for my work".

hints is a meta tag. Such tags are considered not OK on StackExchange sites (based on long experience with those kinds of tags). Anyway, you don't need a tag. You can just write "Please do not provide an entire answer just some hints" in the question body. – D.W. Dec 7 '13 at 4:55
In that case, I think homework is a meta tag and should not be ok. – figlesquidge Jan 9 '14 at 14:09

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