Let's say I'm writing a book and I need to write about hacking, but I don't know nothing about the subject.

It could be possible to find a lot of related resources over the Internet, but it would be hard to filter - without further analysis, what demands time - what is relevant and what is too much information for somebody who only wants the basic to make something coherent.

Would it be considered OFF Topic to ask, not about the subject itself but for a resource list ( that some other more knowledgeable member may have) of suggested books/sites/whatever for somebody to start his own research in a faster and better way?

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    Possible duplicate, unless we want to revisit the issue: Is it appropriate to ask questions on specialist knowledge areas? Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 14:03
  • I don't think it's a duplicate, since no real question is made here. You are not asking for insights or comments on a specific topic form people who knows a lot more than you, you are asking for a list of books and other resources that may help you with your research. It would be duplicate if somebody asked something like "How do I hack a PC? Can you give me also a list of related books?". In this case I'm being specific on questions like "Can you give a list of books for hacking research for a book?" Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


I'm inclined to rule "no," on the grounds of Is it appropriate to ask questions on specialist knowledge areas? .

I see that this is, as it were, a step back removed from "specialist knowledge" questions - not asking for details, just for resources. However,

  • This leaves us with the same problem - if we allow questions about resources for subjects off-topic, those subjects can get very specific and very, very off topic, without a clear cutoff line:
    • "Anybody know any sources about life in the Middle Ages?".
    • "Anybody know any sources about how the Gauls treated women in the Middle Ages?"
    • "Anybody know any sources about [Obscure Historical Figure X]?"
    • "I'm writing a thesis comparing and contrasting how [Obscure Historical Figures] addressed with the Gaelic treatment of women in the Middle Ages; anybody know any sources dealing with that?"
  • Requests for resources - particularly if we allow any topic a writer might conceivably be interested in - are often Shopping Questions. There's no "right" or "wrong" answer if the resource is vaguely related to the topic; nobody can upvote an answer if he hasn't read the resource themselves; answers can just keep on accumulating endlessly; answers can become outdated or irrelevant. Sometimes good resource requests can be written, but I wouldn't want to give them carte blanche on any topic in existence - that just makes it really easy to write poor questions.
  • Were you trying to remember the link to Jeff Atwood's "canonical blog post on Shopping questions"?
    – user5232
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 0:07
  • @PaulA.Clayton: ARRGG. Yes, yes I was. I wrote without internet connection; then forgot to fix when I had connection and could post. Thanks :) Fixed now.
    – Standback
    Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 6:57
  • I'm inclined to agree. We should encourage people with these kinds of questions to drop into Writing Chat, where things are much more free-form, and we should try to help people find the right SE sites to ask topic-specific questions on (e.g. History). Commented Jun 16, 2013 at 19:10

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