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Why did nobody answer my post?

Why did nobody answer my post?

It happens quite a lot on this forum. Somebody posted a question and doesn't get answers. Or he does get answers but not the ones he anticipated. This is very unfortunate. This is why we have compiled a list of items to watch for improving your posts.

  • Did you provide an attempt at solving the problem?
    This is perhaps the most common mistake that new members make. When posting homework, if you do not make any attempt yourself, then other people are not allowed to help at all! This holds particularly true in the homework forums!

    Of course, many people do not know where to begin, so how could they make an attempt? Well, an attempt could consist out of many things: check the theory in the textbook to see if there is something relevant, check previous problems to see if there is something you can use, draw a picture, try to find an intuitive answer by visualizing the problem, .... Here is a list of simple things you can try out when solving a problem: math.berkeley.edu/~gmelvin/polya.pdf This may not lead you to the answer, but it will make the problem clearer.

    Also, be sure to include all the relevant definitions. This is very helpful to us since sometimes there are multiple definitions for the same term. Telling us which definition you use gives us more information on how to give appropriate help. Also, you may want to think about how the definitions apply to your problem. (And be sure to tell us what you think!) For example, suppose you are given the problem

    When posting this, you should at least include what the definition of continuous is. (Again, there are many possible definitions for continuous.) A definition of the cosine would also be quite helpful. Some properties that you might think are useful should also be given. Again, be sure to show us what you tried and where you're stuck. In showing that the cosine is continuous, you just need to show a definition. So tell us what is hard about it.
  • But I looked at my problem for hours, and I really don't know how to start!
    If you truly looked at the problem for hours, then you must have something that you find confusing. This is something you should tell us about, and it shows you thought about your problem. Also, when we ask for attempts, people often think that we already want half the solution. This is not true. Attempts consists out of many different forms. You could include a specific question that's confusing you, an approach that doesn't seem to work, definitions or theorems that you're having problems with applying, a previous problem that seems to ask something related but that is easier, etc.

  • Did you follow the homework template?
    When posting in the homework forums, you are required to follow the homework template. This look like this:

    Code (Text):

    [b]1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data[/b]



    [b]2. Relevant equations[/b]



    [b]3. The attempt at a solution[/b]
     
    The requirement to follow the homework template is not just us trying to bully you; it does have a good reason. It makes the problem much clearer to the homework helpers, and perhaps also to you. It is never a bad idea to structure your posts, and our template helps you with this. Also, under "relevant equations", you should also post the definitions of the terms you're using. See the above question.

  • Did you post that your homework is due in a few hours and that you need help NOW?
    If you did, then you should remove this. It doesn't get you a faster response. Some people even refuse to help posters who post things like "ASAP", "Help needed fast", etc. Also, if your homework is due in a few hours, then perhaps you should have asked help on it earlier. People here are volunteers and are not paid to help you. We will answer when we can, but it's not nice to put us under pressure.

  • Did you research the problem first yourself?
    Often we get questions like

    Such a threads get very little answers because the question is far too broad, and because it is apparent that the poster did not look for answers himself. This Insights article by ZapperZ gives more explanation about this: Very Little Excuse To Ask A Question Cold

  • Did you give enough explanation in your post?
    It is always better to give too much information to us than too little. First, try to define the terms and the variables you use. For example

    is bad because you never defined [itex]\Phi[/itex], A, or B. This is without doubt an exaggerated example, but do define all variables you use. Similarly:

    Not many people know what Lindelof is, even if they studied the relevant subject. Those people could answer you if you explained that term, but now they are probably not going to bother. So do explain the terms you are using.
    Of course, it would be silly to explain terms like force or derivative. These terms are well-known. So it requires a bit of skill to see which terms to define or not. But if you didn't receive a good answer yet, then perhaps a follow-up post to explain some terms is needed!

  • Did you explain your education level and the relevant courses you are taking?
    Usually, we can deduce the level of education from the post, but this is not always possible. It may very well happen that some people start talking over your head or start saying things that are obvious to you. The more general your question is, the more important it is to include some personal information about yourself. Also, if you know the answer to a problem, it helps to give that too!
  • Did you give a link to a book you are reading?
    Looking up the relevant page in google books and giving us the link helps us quite a lot. Of course, the entire book is often not available online, so it might be impossible for you to give this link. In that case, do quote the exact problem or paragraph you want to discuss. In any case, tell us the book you're using and the page. There might be some people owning the book you do.

  • Did you use LaTeX?
    Reading plain computer symbols is often very annoying to helpers. And when there is not a nice enough lay-out, many people will ignore your post. This can be easily solved by taking out some time to learn about LaTeX. It really isn't hard to learn, and you would make the job for us much easier!
    A tutorial on LaTeX can be found here: http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=3977517&posted=1#post3977517

    If you don't want to learn LaTeX for some reason, then at least use the x2 and x2 buttons to make subscripts and supscripts. Also try to use the symbol list to the right of the posting window to make the post more readable.

  • Did you post your question as an attachment? Is it written by hand?
    Writing your question down on a piece of paper and then posting it as an attachment is quite convenient for you, but it is not convenient for the people who are trying to help you. Some will ignore such posts. And if the handwriting is not easy to read, they will certainly ignore it.

  • Did you include a descriptive title?
    A title like "help needed" doesn't tell the helpers much. It is obvious that help is needed, otherwise you wouldn't post a thread. If you include a descriptive title, then perhaps you will get more people to read your thread!

  • How long did you wait for a reply?
    It can sometimes take quite long before you get a good reply. This may be, for example, because you are posting in a different time zone than most members. Always wait at least 24 hours before bumping a post. (And even then, please bump only once!) Be aware: bumping your thread is often counterproductive. Many helpers will give preference to posts without any replies. If they see a reply in your post, they will often assume that somebody else is already dealing with the problem!
    Also, if you make a mistake in your post, it is much better to edit your post than to reply to your thread. Again, posts with replies tend to get fewer answers than posts without replies!

The authors of this FAQ were:
  • Fredrik
  • micromass
  • tiny-tim
  • vela