The question below was closed, and probably correctly according to our FAQ (although I'm not sure what "source" exactly means). I'd like to open a discussion over whether questions like this should be on topic.

The type of question in question.

Some background (skip to the end if this is too long!):

Statistics in sports is a very hot topic right now; FiveThirtyEight, Football Outsiders, and their ilk are some of the most popular sports sites this side of, well, ESPN. Assuming this site intends to cover sports-as-fans and not just sports-as-participants (which is a valid question, I think!), it seems obvious that some discussions of statistics must be on topic here; and certainly some questions are, such as this question about dWAR which wasn't really a very well written question but still was certainly on-topic and generated one very good answer.

On the other hand, questions about specific statistics - "who holds the record for..." - are not really great on topic questions, as this isn't really a very good place to host things like that - although we've tended not to shut them down, either, and the harder ones seem like reasonable questions. However, in particular ones that might change frequently tend to be worse fits here, because of that fact - the answer becomes out of date but still is in our database and someone has to realize it's out of date to fix it.

This leaves, however, questions like the one that started this: questions about sources of information. These fall into two broad categories:

  1. Questions about finding a source for a specific statistic, such as "I remember a game back in 1956 where Ernie Banks pitched in the seventh inning."
  2. Questions about how to, in general, do research, including good sources for information.

1 should be off-topic as it's written; StackExchange isn't about asking someone to do research for you, it's about tapping people's already existing knowledge. However, it can be rewritten:

How do you identify a specific game that a position player pitched in the 1950s?

That is a very specific question, and should be on-topic. (The 1950s is important, as different eras have different kinds of information available.) Part of the answer to that question, though, would lead us to 2.

2 is basically what the initial question from this discussion is about: about how one can do research. It seems to me that the general topic - of how to do research - should clearly be on-topic; questions about sources for research are however more of a question.

Should we change the rules (or our interpretation) to allow questions about where to find statistics to be on topic? And if so, precisely where is the line drawn?

  • related discussion with respect to specific statistics: meta.sports.stackexchange.com/a/45 – user527 Aug 20 '15 at 15:52
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    The question you link to seems to be deleted now, so only users who can view deleted posts can see it. (That is above 2k on beta sites and above 10k on graduated sites. And, of course, moderators.) If other users want to see it, they can find some version in Google Cache. – Martin Sep 11 '15 at 6:10
  • @Martin Question has been updated – user527 Sep 11 '15 at 13:37

I think that yes, within limits, questions like this should be on topic.

Questions that ask where to find certain kinds of information - whether that be like the question at hand here, asking where to find salary information - are of sufficient scope; they don't necessarily require research (as some of us know them already); and they're useful to others performing the same research.

While they do have a degree of timeliness to them - certainly 50 years from now most of these won't have the same answer, though some will - many of these sites do have a relatively long term utility, and would be similar to asking on our Genealogy site how to find a particular kind of information.

As such, as long as the question is of sufficient scope to not be just one piece of information, but rather one kind of information, and is not asking for an opinion on quality of different sites, it should be on topic. Questions asking for "best" must be asking from the point of view of something concrete - "most complete" by some particular definition, for example . Questions asking for one piece of information - "how many home runs did Ernie Banks hit in 1956", "Who won the world series in 1980" - are off-topic.

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    Scenario: I ask how to look for a list of home run leaders per season. The answer would be to go to baseball reference (or any respected site), select "leaders," and aside from "home runs," there is an option to view "year-by-year top tens." Is this what you are referring to when you say "how to do research" is on topic? – user527 Aug 20 '15 at 16:10
  • Sort of. I would consider that a very basic question - not necessarily a bad one, we do allow 'easy' questions, but still. But yes, that concept; you can imagine questions that are more difficult than simply "go to baseball-reference.com" that might only be answerable using one particular database (like, "How can I determine how much Babe Ruth made in his career"). – Joe Aug 20 '15 at 17:00
  • How do you feel about this question? sports.stackexchange.com/questions/12017/… – user527 Sep 9 '15 at 14:23
  • @edmastermind29 I think that one is okay. It's rather specific, but it also seems like a reasonable question to me - something another sports fan might know (though I don't...) It's not a specific statistic - it's asking generally where information about a major tournament can be found. So I think it's fine. – Joe Sep 9 '15 at 14:35
  • That's where "source" request comes into play because we've been consistent about not being "research assistants" for some time. We can revisit that, but your question indirectly does. Although it isn't about a specific statistic, it is a request to view "better" rosters with stats, which is why I believed it somewhat related to your question. – user527 Sep 9 '15 at 14:44
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    Oh, I totally agree. But I don't see this as being a research assistant - this isn't something that necessarily requires someone to go looking (though we probably could). The question is answerable by someone simply off the top of their head, if they happen to know something about the Eurobasket competition. That's what differentiates it to me - it's like asking a librarian something. If you ask "what book is good to find XYZ stat", that's a good question. If you ask "Who's the leading rebounder in...", the librarian will say "I don't know, go look in a book...". – Joe Sep 9 '15 at 14:51
  • That's why I think it's on topic - and related to this question. It's asking where to find a kind of information. – Joe Sep 9 '15 at 14:51
  • Fair, and I agree with your points. I want to be careful with consistently handling what is a source/research request and what is otherwise, and that is a fine line. – user527 Sep 9 '15 at 15:03
  • For example, this question originally asked for a link. After this meta discussion, the OP developed a more constructive question than "where can I watch the game"? – user527 Sep 9 '15 at 15:04

I think Joe's analogy with the librarian is a good one, not sure how we can formulate and enforce it in more general terms though.

Also I have previously asked another question asking for ways to find a specific statistic, which is among the top 50 most viewed questions we have on the site.

I think we should be careful in not limiting the site too much, it might end up becoming a site for "explain this rule for me", to which the only feasible answer is to take a citation out of the rulebook.

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    Joe's blurb on your question is also a concise point ("Find this stat for me" vs. "Where can I find stats on this") that supports said analogy. I agree with not limiting the site, but that shouldn't be at the expense of the SE model. With most "experiments" throughout this site's history, I think this is an "assess on a case-by-case basis" situation. – user527 Sep 10 '15 at 19:09
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    "Where can I find stats on this" is fine, but it's not too far off from "Where can I watch this game." I think research requests are more distinguishable (eg, a recent question asking to find a quote and who said it) in nature. – user527 Sep 10 '15 at 19:11
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    Also, your question on distance covered can probably be the poster item for this meta discussion. – user527 Sep 10 '15 at 19:19

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