When attempting to close a question, there's no option for 'general reference' . Since linguistics has a lot of terminology and reference like facts, I feel like the option should be there.

Is it supposed to not be there? (maybe when in private beta, or specifically decided for ling.SE)

What is considered general reference? Must it be online?

3 Answers 3


The "General Reference" close reason has been rolled out on a very limited basis.

We're watching the use of this close reason in actual practice before rolling it out more widely. We are not adding the "General Reference" close reason to other sites unless these questions are shown to be an actual, wide-spread problem on the site.

general reference

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.

"General Reference" isn't so much about questions which are easily findable on the Internet. It's more about those times when a question is asked in the way a 12-year old asks how to spell "trivial"; For those time you just want to shout "Why don't you just go look it up!"

The main concern is that an explicit close reason will only will arm users with the mission to close any question that has been answered in Wikipedia or can be found through a Google Search. That's not what "General Reference" is about.

For the time being, "general reference" questions can be closed as "not a real question".

  • Re: "mission to close any question that has been answered in Wikipedia or can be found through a Google Search. That's not what "General Reference" is about. "...that's exactly how it is being used, how I use it, and how I want to use it on english.SE. Namely it -is- the response to the 12-year old 'go look it up'. I expect the refrences fr linusitics.SE to be not as universal or easily searchable as those for ELU (especially with multiple languages involved.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 17:40
  • continued... But still, the example I was thinking of the difference betweeen minimalism and P&P is of a level where links to an online reference are a welcome good answer.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 17:41
  • 4
    @Mitch, I think that question is not a candidate for this kind of close. There is no authoritative "dictionary of linguistic acronyms," and the relationship between the two concepts is complex enough to elicit some explanation/synthesis of existing literature on the concepts.
    – Aaron
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 20:22
  • @Aaron: it's not about them as acronyms but a bout the subject matter. And someone gave links to the explanations. But still, I agree, that question is too deep even with links to be just an online general reference.
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 20:28

It seems it's not there by default. I asked the same exact question in the Meta Japanese SE.

General Reference is when you find the answer in standard resources, like Wikipedia, or when after a fairly quick search you find a page where the explanation is easy, also for non-experts on the matter.

If the page is not in the first few links, or if it's not simple to decipher... then it's not General Reference.

Anyway, I think this is more a guideline, rather than a strict rule.

  • Any clues as to how to convince someone who can to add it in?
    – Mitch
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 1:58
  • In my case I was being asked to bring an example question that made me post the proposal on Meta. In other words, show that there was an actual need of that reason.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Sep 19, 2011 at 6:58
  • @Mitch: First you would need to convince the community to want it. I for one do not want it, at least not at the level it's been applied so far. Commented Sep 20, 2011 at 10:54

I basically agree with Robert. I'd like to add that we should be very careful with General Reference: it should only be used when it seems very hard to give an interesting answer to it. That applies to "Is trivial a word?", or "how do you spell trivial?".

But "what is a superstrate language exactly?" would be interesting enough to me. The fact that it is probably described on Wikipedia doesn't mean it is always a bad question: we want to have the best description of superstrate on the internet, by experts! While there is little quality gain to be expected in a description of the spelling of trivial by experts, I am sure a discussion of superstrate languages by an expert can be interesting! The problems and finer points could be discussed, with examples, etc. We are not an encyclopaedia.

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