Problems with self-help questions: As far as I can tell, there are two main problems with self-help questions.

  1. There are concerns about providing clinical advice where someone should be seeking the services of appropriately trained health practitioner.
  2. Such questions tend to be too specific to an individual's situation, and thus such questions tend not to create useful ongoing resources for the internet.

Goals of the site: I also think there are several goals for this site that should encourage the question asker or others to try to convert self-help questions that would otherwise be closed into useful questions for the site.

  1. It's good to be welcoming and friendly to new users
  2. We want to grow the site in terms of number of users, visitors, and questions
  3. Self-help questions can often be edited into general questions. And answers to the general question may still be useful to the person who asked the question.

This push I think is consistent with the recent push on the StackExchange network to make question closing more constructive, and in general to be more friendly to new users.

Solution: Thus, I think a good solution where someone asks a "self-help" question is to edit

Meta Question: So, I thought be useful to have a meta-page that discussed strategies for editing questions into general useful questions for the site.

What are general strategies for converting "self-help" questions into useful general question?

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2 Answers 2

Strategies:

  • Frame background information specific to the person asking the question into some initial paragraph with a heading like "background".
  • Have a clearly delimited set of general questions that are phrased in terms of people in general. The questions should stand on their own irrespective of the motivating background.
  • Update the question title to reflect the general question being asked.

Examples

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Firstoff, it's the policy of this site that "self Help" questions are not permitted. Therefore, as soon as a self help question is found it should be placed on hold as off topic. Placing a self help question on hold indicates that the issues with it need to be corrected before answers can be submitted. This is important as it indicates to others that the question need improvement, and prevents answers from being posted until the question is improved.

As Jeromy mentioned in his answer, self help questions should be edited and improved. Ideally the OP should improve the question in my opinion because they get more experience with editing and the Stack Exchange format. However any user can edit (or suggest edits) to an on hold self help question and if you see one, please try.

I think the items laid out in Jeromy's answer for how to edit a self help question to make it on topic are great and don't have much to add there.

Not every self help question can be made on topic but I feel most can. It's most important they be put on hold (closed) first because this takes the least effort and sends a message that the question needs work. IF possible, edit on hold self help questions to get them to be reopened.

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