The post is now created, using the top 10 questions as of the 25th of may '16. But you can still feel free to add your helpful questions for interested users (make sure to use the template below).

Yesterday, a discussion on how to best educate new users on our scope came up. It was proposed, that we could create some form of checklist with a set of yes and no questions, that can help new users write good questions or improve on their attempts.
The final result could be something similar to this StackOverflow post. A set of questions that, if followed, can erradicate our most common problem sources.

This checklist could then be recommendet to new users as an easily understandible way to improve their questions. With a comment like

Welcome to worldbuilding! Thank you for your interest in this site! Have a look at this cool post that can help you improve your question in only a few moments with 20 short and easy questions.

I suggest we use this question to collect questions that could be part of this checklist.

To arrange things more clearly, let us use the following template fora suggestion, one suggestion per post, so each proposal can be discussed and voted on individually. The most voted results will then be collected in a post for easy access (with references to this discussion and the help center of course).

Question: The question you want to propose
Should be answered: Yes or No

Further explanation on why this question is useful + examples. This part will be added as footnote in the final checklist post.

  • I like your format a lot because people can quickly identify which criteria might fit their question, and then get more information if they need it. A lot of the previous risk factor threads are intimidating by their very length. A succinct guide with links to further explanations that we can link people to would be amazing. – AndreiROM May 18 '16 at 20:25
  • @AndreiROM thank you, this is exactly what I was hoping to achieve. People don't like reading big walls of text. At least I know I don't. Now it's time to collectively find the most helpful questions to ask! – T3 H40 May 18 '16 at 20:35
  • Ok, so a lot of good questions have been posted. What's the next step? – AndreiROM May 25 '16 at 13:36
  • @AndreiROM Today's evening a week will have passed. I will then write up a post that contains the 10 most upvoted suggestions (in that order). Part of the post will also be a link to important resources like the help center and the sandbox, but the main focus shall be on the questions here, providing a simple way for improvement – T3 H40 May 25 '16 at 14:50

15 Answers 15

Question: Have you done research on your topic and included everything that is important for your question?
Should be answered: Yes

Doing research is an important part of asking a question. First, you show that you don't just want others to do your work and second it helps on enclosing on possible answers as it defines the requirements more clearly. Adding your own thoughts on the problem might also help others to find something new that you missed. Example: What would it take to build a ship capable of crossing the Pacific?

Question: Does the question title accurately and concisely summarize the specific question that you are asking?
Should be answered: Yes

The question title is very important for setting the tone for reading the question. It is the first piece of information that someone will see when browsing the site, and it points toward what the asker wants to learn. A good title can make even a long question much easier to grasp, because the person reading the question knows up front what to look for. Questions with clear titles may attract more attention from subject matter experts, resulting in better answers. While the title is not meant to be the entire question, you should strive to write the title such that it provides an at-a-glance summary of what you are looking for.

Question: Do answers to your question depend on any knowledge specific to your setting that isn't included in the question, like how your magic system works?

Should be answered: No.

It's important to include all of the necessary information in your question, so that people don't spend time writing answers that will turn out to be invalid or unhelpful. If you're asking about the gravitational properties in your star system, be sure to include the types/classes of stars, sizes of stars and planets involved, and relevant distances. If you're asking how you can design a creature with magic immunity, be sure to explain how magic works in your world. If you're asking about the societal implications of a particular situation, tell us enough about the society to be able to answer.

Question: Do you ask how your character would act in a given situation?
Should be answered: No

This is the Worldbuilding StackExchange and therefore per definition not about character building. The biggest problem with this type of question is, that you as the inventor of the character are the only person that can decide with certainity how a character would act. However, if you can rephrase your question to be neutral and can be answered objectively, you are fine to do so. Have a look here for more.

Question: Are you asking about a large number of impacts resulting from your original situation?

Should be answered: No

These are are often referred as what ifs questions. Asking for the implications on the world and/or society as large is far too broad. See also this discussion.

Question: Does it take longer than 5 minutes to read your question?
Should be answered: No

Long questions aren't necessarily good questions. While the community does encourage details, too much detail can discourage users from reading the entire post. Try to narrow the scope of the details in your question to exactly the problem you need solved. Comments can be used to request more information be edited into the question if such is needed.

  • See also Is the question scan-able? – a CVn May 19 '16 at 17:18
  • While this generally holds true, I find that for some (potentially broad or POB questions) it's necessary to have a longer body, including lists of restrictions or critical information. – FoxElemental Jun 22 at 16:27

Question: Is the technological level of your world clear or has no influence?

Should be answered: Yes

This is a recurrent issue with many questions. The technological level has a huge amount of influence on warfare, society, space travel, economy, etc. In most of the questions, it is necessary to mention roughly where does the world/country stand.

  • Even where you think it doesn't apply, turns out it often does... – a CVn May 20 '16 at 9:56

First, I think that all the questions should be suggestive, answerable as yes, and asked in a way that it's obvious that Yes is the correct answer. Mixing yes and no questions is going to make people confused.

Question: Have you thoroughly explained your setting and the questions premises?
Should be answered: Yes

Kind of an obvious one. Answerers need to know the rules of the question in order to write good answers. Vague questions where you have no idea how anything works are going to require a lot of follow up comments asking for clarification.

Question: Are you limiting your question to a single, narrow facet of your world to keep it from being to broad?
Should be answered: Yes

Another obvious, leading question where the right answer is obvious just from reading the question.

  • @MichaelKjörling possibly, though the phrasing is a little strange. It was not immediately obvious what that question was asking. Narrow and too broad are more commonly used, especially since thats how the close reason is worded. – AndyD273 May 22 '16 at 11:41
  • Certainly true. I simply wanted to point out (in both cases), as a service to the community, the alternative question that seemed to be getting at much the same issue. – a CVn May 22 '16 at 11:45
  • Actually, my question was specifically designated at what if type of questions. "I do this, what are the implications for the world"-kind of questions. That was also a way to introduce the concept of "what if" which is mentioned here and there. And yes, I know that discussion is more than a month old. :D – bilbo_pingouin Jun 28 '16 at 22:00
  • @bilbo_pingouin Gotcha. Then my question is definitely different. I do think that what if questions, while tricky, aren't inherently bad though. It is possible even by a newbie to write one that works. A suggestion to keep the question contained and narrow could help most of them, and then coach the ones that need it through comments. – AndyD273 Jun 29 '16 at 1:47

Question: Have you proofread your question?
Should be answered: Yes

Nobody is perfect, and having some spelling mistakes in your question is not a problem as there is always someone who is willing to edit typos you made. But you should always proofread your question to see whether you accidentally missed some words or information you wanted to give. This also serves to double check the comprehensiveness of what you want to say.

  • 4
    IMO this is useful to consider for the perfect post, but doesn't really need to be covered separately as a distinct point (we don't want to make these too many). As long as the question is understandable, we can always fix the specifics. – a CVn May 19 '16 at 17:28
  • @MichaelKjörling I definitely see this as one of the aspects lower in the list, I agree on that. But what I was trying to achieve with this whole post was a collection of all tips, we could comeup with and to get an idea of which ones were the most helpful ones. I plan on posting the top 10(?) as a final, compact list. Everyone who would be interested in more could come here and read on. As remarked on the original proposal, the format here can be confusingfor the yes/no bit of the answer. The final post would group the questions in two categories. – T3 H40 May 19 '16 at 17:36

Question: Does the wording of your question encourage answers that are not based solely on personal opinion?
Should be answered: Yes

Again, leading the reader by making it obvious what kind of questions we want.

Question: are you asking your question because you're at a loss for ideas?

Should be answered: No

Idea generation isn't necessarily bad: in some senses most questions are seeking ideas. But questions that fundamentally read like "I'm looking for some..." tend not to do well on the Stack.

Need help focusing your question more? Here are some of our best questions (and the rest of them) to look at for examples. Consider whether your question runs afoul of any risk factors. And you can always use the Sandbox to workshop a question, or just stop by chat to ask for help making it workable.

Question: Is the question scan-able?
Should be answered: Yes

Questions that can be looked over quickly to identify the major portions of the question tend to be easier to read. Make sure you are using headings, formatting and if helpful also images and MathJax formulas to get your question across as clearly as possible even if the person reading the question only scans it. If the question is long, use a separate heading or simply **boldface** to emphasize the question that you want answered.

Question: Is your question about your world, instead of about your characters, possible actions, or plots? What is "the world"? Click here
Should be answered: Yes

Leading the reader by focusing on the world, not the characters, in such a way that anyone reading it will know that we want them to focus the question to be about the world, and not about plot.
An explanation link may be needed to help clarify what we mean by the world, since there are more things that go into world building than will fit into a single sentence.

Question: Are you fishing for ideas?

Should be answered: No

The WB:SE community of imaginative and enthusastic participants is great at answering specific questios that result in specific answers. However, questions that ask for lists of ideas because you don't know where to go next with your story are off-topic (primarily opinion-based). Popular versions of fishing questions are, "what should I name my _____?" and "what are the ways to _____?"

This is the same question as posed by @nitsua60, above, but worded in a way that is easier for people to understand. Further, I've had to vote to close a few too many fishing questions in the last week, so I thought it deserved better focus.

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