We have just gotten our first question that requests learning materials: Learning materials for Dependent Origination (Paṭiccasamuppāda) in Theravada Buddhism.

Should questions of this type be considered on-topic? Some SE sites allow this type of question, particularly in the form of "reference requests", e.g. Math, Theoretical Computer Science, and, of course, Software Recommendations. Other sites forbid them, like Stack Overflow. Some sites, like Japanese Language, have a compromise policy that allows a limited number of these questions on their meta site, but forbids them on the main site. Of the other religion sites, it looks like Christianity has deemed these questions off-topic; I have not found any policy on the matter at Judaism or Islam.

All this in mind, should we allow questions that request learning materials? If so, to what extent?

Note that forbidding these questions on the main site does not mean they cannot be asked at all - it just means that the questions should be moved to a more appropriate venue, i.e. chat.

  • 1
    I don't get the problem... what's wrong with asking for resources? Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:32
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    @Yuttadhammo On larger sites like SO, the major problem is that they started getting swamped with questions like "what library should I use to do X?" and "what is your favorite tutorial for Y?". As such, it has often become necessary to exact a blanket ban on resource requests on those sites. Some other sites, however, manage just fine with resource requests. Personally, I am okay with resource requests in moderation (particularly since this site is never going to be SO-sized), but I think it is still an issue that should be discussed.
    – senshin
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 13:52
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    Given that a large part of Buddhism concerns the practical usage of the teachings (as opposed to "just" doctrines to believe in), wouldn't references to resources make sense here? Granted that I am biased since I asked the question, but it was partly also to be helpful for others that are looking for the same thing. Rewriting the question (like suggested by @Earthliŋ) is also a good option, although how much rewriting work it will take, I don't know. :-) Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 12:41

6 Answers 6


On Islam.SE, such questions, list questions of any form, are considered non-constructive, see this.

With list questions, they maybe on-topic for your site, and it's benefits may be noticeable, but they fall somewhere between Too-Broad and Primarily-Opinion-Based, such questions don't go well with the SE Model and I would suggest not making them off-topic, but also not allowing them.

Now, I have no idea how much literature or resources your religion has, so there may be exceptions to this rule, but I believe if you want your site to be constructive, and go along with the general practice of the SE Network, you should not allow such questions, and should close them and keep them for the chat which is available to those who have 20 reputation.


As much as I love a useful list, list have proven to be problematic on Stackexchange sites. The format doesn't work well. The list of books can never be canonical.

An exception to this is answers that happen to be in a book. So an answer might legitimately say, "To answer that you need to read book X" (And that also probably means the question was overly broad)


I am strongly in favour of such questions - in other Stack Exchanges, the answers were quite helpful. Should we get swamped, we could still change the policy.

It would however be a good idea to require that these questions become Community Wiki.


As I see it there are two problems with questions asking for resources

  1. They often are (never-ending) list questions.

    For example asking for good books on meditation is not only subjective (how do you define good?) but will undoubtedly also generate lots of answers, even long after the question was asked. Everyone wants to contribute what they think is the best book on the topic and there is no way of telling which answer is best.

  2. Answers become outdated or incomplete quickly.

    In this day and age new resources become available all the time, so answers on resource requests probably need to be adjusted often.

Despite these potential problems I am in favor of allowing resource requests in one way or the other, but just like Earthliŋ mentioned I think we shouldn't allow them on the main site.

Personally I'm in favor of allowing resource questions on meta, which has already been proposed here, but I'd like to add that we should require these questions to be non-subjective and not too broad. I'm also in favor of making them community-wiki so we don't get 15 different answers.

There is another alternative I'd like to propose, but I've done this here so people can vote on that separately.


I think it very useful to have a collected page of resources, but I'm not particularly fond of plain resource requests.

With the question in question, I think one could rewrite the main point of the question

There are many writings on the subject, and many try to explain the concepts of dependent origination. However, this question is regarding finding practical instructions to applying the teachings in meditation.


What is a practical approach to studying of the concepts of dependent origination?

An answer to this reformulation would ideally draw from different sources (that is, providing references/resources) at the same time as building content, right here on Buddhism.SE, for the benefit of other users.

Therefore, I think that we should have strict resources questions with link-only-type answers on the meta site and questions that ask for content-rich answers on the main site.


Another solution that hasn't been proposed here yet is to use tag wiki pages to compile lists of resources lists on a topic. If people ask for resources on the main page we can close the question as off-topic but at the same time refer to that topic's tag wiki. I think this is also how the people at StackOverflow handle these type of questions.

I've added this as a separate answer (my other answer is here) so people can vote for both ideas separately.

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