Forum Guidelines: Smart posting behavior pays off

Not open for further replies.


Global Moderator
Welcome to, the place for statistics help. This is a guideline for people who want to ask a question on this forum and value a meaningful answer (or even an actual answer at that). So If you are one of these people then - when you click the "New Thread" button at the upper left corner of the appropriate forum - make sure you do the following:

1) Show effort. We cant stress this enough.
  • Read the FAQ.
  • Try to find an answer by searching the forum.
  • Try to find an answer by searching the Web (use that famous search engine).
  • Try to find an answer by reading your statistics package program manual.
  • Try to find an answer by reading your textbook (if you are a student asking for homework help).
Now when you ask your question, it really helps when you display the fact that you have done these things first; this will help establish that you're not being a lazy sponge or that you are wasting people's time. Better yet, display what you have learned from doing these things. We love answering questions for people who have demonstrated they can learn from the answers

2) When You Ask, choose your forum carefully
Be sensitive in choosing where you ask your question. You are likely to be ignored, or written off as a loser, if you:
  • Post your question to a forum where it's off topic
  • Double-post to too many different forums (don't double post, its useless, we will remove it)
  • Send a personal message, post or e-mail directly to somebody who is neither an acquaintance of yours nor personally responsible for solving your problem (we are not your supervisor)

3) Use meaningful, specific subject headers
The subject header is your golden opportunity to attract qualified experts' attention in around 50 characters or fewer. Don't waste it on babble like “Please help me” (let alone “PLEASE HELP ME!!!!”; messages with subjects like that get discarded by reflex). Don't try to impress us with the depth of your anguish; use the space for a super-concise problem description instead.

One good convention for subject headers, used by many tech support organizations, is “object - deviation”. The “object” part specifies what thing or group of things are you having a problem with, and the “deviation” part describes exactly what you are trying to do.

  • HELP! I dont know how to do this test plz help
  • Comparing groups - which test should I use
  • [SPSS - T-Test] Should I use a two sample or paired t.test?
Any expert who sees a smart header can immediately understand what it is that you are having a problem with and the problem you are having, at a glance.

4) Write in clear, grammatical, correctly-spelled language
Answering questions for careless and sloppy thinkers is not rewarding; we'd rather spend our time elsewhere. So expressing your question clearly and well is important. If you can't be bothered to do that, we can't be bothered to pay attention. Spend the extra effort to polish your language. It doesn't have to be stiff or formal — in fact, we value informal, slangy and humorous language if it is used with precision. But it has to be precise; there has to be some indication that you're thinking and paying attention.

Spell, punctuate, and capitalize correctly. Really DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPS; this is read as shouting and considered rude. (All-smalls is only slightly less annoying, as it's difficult to read)

More generally, if you write like a semi-literate you will very likely be ignored. So don't use instant-messaging [SMS] shortcuts. Spelling "you" as "u" makes you look like an semi-literate dud who just saved two entire keystrokes. Worse: writing like a l33t script kiddie hax0r is the absolute kiss of death and guarantees you will receive nothing but stony silence.

If your posting code/syntax from any statistical software make sure that the code is "clean" (and make a reference to the appropriate package(s) needed). To us, those trying to offer assistance, this makes things much easier and amplifies the chance that the poster will get a reply. We will not sieve through your code in an attempt to figure out which errors are due to sloppy/careless coding and which are the ones you are having trouble with. So code clean and indicate where the problems are. More useful tips on how we would like you to post code/syntax here.

5) Be precise and informative about your problem
  • Describe the research you did to try and understand the problem before you asked the question.
  • Describe the steps you took to try and pin down the problem yourself before you asked the question.
If you can do your best to anticipate the questions an expert will ask, and answer them in advance in your request for help - you will be helped much more rapidly.

Don't waste your time, or ours, on crude primate politics “I know I'm just a pathetic stats loser, but...”. Instead, present the background facts and your question as clearly as you can. That is a better way to position yourself than by grovelling.
Grovelling is not a substitute for doing your homework It is distracting and unhelpful. It's especially annoying when it's coupled with vagueness about the actual problem.

6) Describe the goal, not the step
If you are trying to find out how to do something, begin by describing the goal. Only then describe the particular step towards it that you are blocked on.

Often, people who need technical help have a high-level goal in mind and get stuck on what they think is one particular path towards the goal. They come for help with the step, but don't realize that the path is wrong. It can take substantial effort to get past this.

  • How should I split my data in groups based on temperature so I can conduct an two way ANOVA?
  • I'm trying test for a relationship between group A and B at different temperature levels. Right now the only way I can see to do this is by splitting my data in groups and running a two way ANOVA [group x temp].
The second version of the question is smart. It allows an answer that suggests a tool (here likely an ANCOVA) better suited to the task.

Are you here for statistical consulting on your research? Then its smart practice to actually post your research question. It's frustrating when people cloak their questions in hypothetical vagueness (your undergrad research is not a CIA secret) because this often means we can't tell whether the analysis you're doing is appropriate. Plus, knowing what we're actually helping you with will motivate helpful responses.

7) Courtesy never hurts, and sometimes helps
Be courteous. Use “Please” and “Thanks for your attention” or “Thanks for your consideration”. Make it clear you appreciate the time people spend helping you for free. We made it very easy to do this on this forum -> just use the 'thanks' button below every post.

Remember, this isn't as important as (and cannot substitute for) being grammatical, clear, precise and descriptive; me personally would rather get somewhat brusque but technically sharp questions than polite vagueness. (If this puzzles you, remember that we value a question by what it teaches us.)

However, if you've got your technical ducks in a row, politeness does increase your chances of getting a useful answer.

8) Follow up with a brief note on the solution

Post a note after the problem has been solved to show all who helped you; let them know how it came out and thank them again for their help. If the problem attracted general interest in, it's appropriate to post the followup there. Optimally, the header should then also be changed to ‘SOLVED’ or an equally obvious tag in the subject line.

A person that has applied to the guidelines here seems worthy of an answer. He/she has exhibited problem-solving intelligence rather than passively waiting for an answer to drop from on high. However, If you have applied to all the conditions above and your question is still not being answered: feel free to bumb the thread. Your question could of simply been swamped in traffic at a busy time. Remember though that it could simply be that the lack of an answer stems from the fact that nobody here knows the answer. After a bumb, we're more likely to tell you whats up - at least if you have posted your question in an intelligent fashion.

Remember these are not posting rules, rather guidelines that will maximize your chances of getting help. So if you're genuinely here for help then let them guide you. If you have any more questions related to these issues, post them!

Happy posting everyone!

These guidelines are meant to be a summary and combination of Eric Raymonds posting guides, the javaranch faq and both these [1,2] forum threads as well as including helpful suggestions from (in no particular order) quark, Dason and CowboyBear
Last edited:
Not open for further replies.