Would it be useful to have a tag for exercise problems and questions about standard textbook material, or other educational material, like online courses and the like?

The idea would be to use them to tag a certain type of questions, namely questions relating to educational material in the field of quantum information and computation. It should not matter whether these are actual homework or not, and the tag name should be chosen accordingly.

The advantages I see would be that it would allow for an improved filtering of questions (which is a key purpose of tags).

  • We have a fair share of users who are new to the field. For them, this would allow to find answers to textbook-level questions which they might be looking more easily. (That is, they could choose a topical tag + the "exercise" tag to find corresponding answers.)
  • Users who are interested in providing good canoncial answer to standard material can find them more easily. Having good answers to these questions is very valuable, so I think the site could profit from that.
  • Users who don't like to see those type of questions can avoid them more easily, and thereby be directed to the research-level questions. This could make the site more attractive to expert users who would like to focus on those type of questions.

So I think there is a number of advantages to having such a tag.

There might be potential issues with the fact that the tag is a bit diffuse -- where exactly do we draw the limit of "textbook-type questions" -- but I am optimistic that this can be settled. I also feel that even if such cases exist (like for many other tags!), these would not tend to lead to emotional discussions, as it is the case for the [homework-and-exercises] tag on physics. The latter (even if not meant to be like that) gives the impression to assign blame for posting homework. This is not at all my intention with this tag: The idea is solely to mark a certain type of problems, namely those which are considered educational and appear in textbooks, exercises, online courses, etc.. The tag should not assess whether this is actually homework, nor make the impression it does.

A key question would be to have a good name (not [homework-and-exercises]!). I would imagine something like ), but I am entirely open to suggestions!

Note that we already have a tag now, which seems well accepted, so tags of that kind seem fine on this site. Basically, I am asking for a more broad version of this tag which would encompass other textbooks and learning resources.

  • $\begingroup$ We might have to rely on the good-faith of the OP to tag as homework. Or else we feel OK retagging clearly homework questions as homework questions. What irks me is the tone of some homework questions, not so much the fact that they are homework. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2020 at 1:57
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    $\begingroup$ I think the misunderstanding here is that at least I did not mean to have a tag for actual homework, but a tag for exercise/educational problems - the kind of stuff you find in textbooks. Some people indeed react allergically to the "homework", I guess since they feel accused of cheating on the homework or the like. This is not my point. --- Would it make sense to edit the question/title to reflect this (e.g. "Should we have a tag for exercise-like problems"?). When I have a bit more time these days I will write an answer. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2020 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ So... The Stack Exchange network has been through this before... If anyone's going to write an answer saying why it's a good thing, please first read though (and address the points made in!) the answers to this meta post and this blog post. There are a few exceptions to the no meta-tag rule around the network, but the ones I know of have been difficult to implement well, so this isn't a decision to take lightly $\endgroup$
    – Mithrandir24601 Mod
    May 8, 2020 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithrandir24601 Thanks for the links, I am going to go through them. I know that physics.SE is an exception, and I think that for me on physics, filtering it has made it a better place, which means that I come there more often. My feeling is that tags (should) have a two-fold purpose: First, finding certain questions one is interested in, but second, also avoiding certain types of questions one is not interested in (especially if they are frequent), to increase the signal-to-noise ratio. $\endgroup$ May 8, 2020 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithrandir24601 (After a short look): As I said, I am not very much in favor of calling it "homework". I would very much prefer something like "exercise-problem", or "textbook-problem" -- it is not meant to say someone is trying to get us to do their homework (why would I care), but it is meant to describe the type of question. (Note that we do have such a meta-tag, namely [nielsen-and-chuang] ! -- Basically my suggestion is an extension of that tag to all questions relating to textbooks, exercises, courses, and the like.) $\endgroup$ May 8, 2020 at 13:49
  • $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch My opinion is that such a tag would be much better than one simply called 'homework', as it would be much simpler to define and objectively use $\endgroup$
    – Mithrandir24601 Mod
    May 8, 2020 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithrandir24601 Indeed; I have to admit I am not to happy with the question as it is stated now exactly for that reason. (Sorry, Martin :-/ ) --- Would it make sense to first discuss a bit here what a good name would be, and then I ask a question geared towards that? Would [exercise-problem] work? Or [exercise-and-textbook], maybe including non-exercise questions about textbooks (which should also be covered)? $\endgroup$ May 8, 2020 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ ... we could also introduce one tag for each textbook :-/ $\endgroup$ May 8, 2020 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ I personally don't think this is the best idea, both for the problems with meta-tags, and also because I don't think the homework tag/policy on Physics SE is implemented all that well (not for lack of trying), and has been a source of discussion there for years. $\endgroup$
    – auden
    May 9, 2020 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ Martin, I have rewritten the question entirely in the spirit which I had in mind. If you are unhappy, feel free to rollback and ping me. I would then post it as a separate question. $\endgroup$ May 10, 2020 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ @heather I have rewritten the question in the spirit of what I had in mind. (In particular, I agree homework is not a good category.) Do you see the same issue relative to the p.se policy? (And the meta issue - given that we have a [nielsen-and-chuang] meta tag.) -- On a personal note, I have to say that filtering the homework tag (and some other tags) on p.se has made it a better place for me, so I return more often. $\endgroup$ May 10, 2020 at 10:33

1 Answer 1


I am not entirely convinced that adding such a tag would allow to satisfactorily filter out textbook-like content. At the same time, I don't see any compelling reason to not have it, provided we stay away from any wording that might appear "judgemental", or otherwise pertaining to the intentions of the asker rather than the content of the post. If having such a tag would make some people more eager to participate and stay on the site, I say let's go for it.

A few thoughts:

  • What would the tag achieve? Provided we manage to maintain it properly (which should not be taken for granted imo), it would allow to filter out a specific type of questions. Moreover, it would make it easier for someone looking e.g. for solutions or discussions about a given textbook problem to find what they are looking for. It might even make it easier to find duplicate questions.

  • Would it be effective? This depends a lot on how consistently it is used. These types of questions have a good chance of being asked by unexperienced users and not be tagged adequately. It would be up to higher rep users to edit in the tag where due. On physics there is a relatively small number of users which valiantly retag a lot of questions. I honestly do not know how much the consistent use of their "homework-like" tag relies on a few users enforcing it, but I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of it is thanks to them. All this to say: if you want it, be prepared to maintain it.

  • The issue of it being a meta-tag. To be honest, I don't completely understand the way tags are classified as "meta". Going with the definitions here, "The reason meta-tags are a problem is that they do not describe the content of the question. They describe some other aspect of the question, like the author’s skill level, or the author’s motivation for asking it, or generally what “kind” of question it is (poll, how-to, etc.)". However, an "exercise-like-question" tag would describe the content of the question, exactly like, say, does. It would also not be more subjective than many other tags. I guess it would be a "dependent tag" (again going with the definition given in the link), but the same could be said for many others (again, is an example). Regardless, the main argument against meta-tags, as far as I can tell, is their being subjective and/or useless. This would not be the case for an exercise-like tag.

  • What wording should we use? I would go with something simple, e.g. or . Something like could also be fine, but then what about exercises not coming from a textbook? At the same time, almost everything could be argued to be some form of "exercise", whereas a "textbook exercise" refers to something more specific, so even if not entirely accurate, that wording might be more apt to the purpose.

  • What about all the exercise-like questions that have already been asked?" Mass retagging is a rather boring exercise. Just saying.

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    $\begingroup$ I fully agree with the maintenance issue. In principle, this is the case for almost all tags. Now I am optimistic: If I were to use to filter certain questions I am not interested in, I would be fast to re-tag untagged questions so they would be out of my start page. (That's how I do it on physics.) -- Regarding the wording, I would suggest textbook-and-exercises to highlight that it also covers textbook-level standard questions (e.g. "How can I show that different purifications are related by unitaries on the purifying system"), and also to avoid the discussion... $\endgroup$ May 11, 2020 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ ... whether a problem is an actual exercise or just material covered in a textbook. --- Finally, re-tagging is a less urgent matter, certainly from the perspective of filtering questions (less so from the perspective of searching), but again, this applies to every new tag, and should not prevent us from introducing new tags we deem useful. Also, maybe from time to time some experienced user might be bored and feel that a boring tag like retagging might be just the right thing. $\endgroup$ May 11, 2020 at 11:34
  • $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch I agree that retagging and maintenance are not huge problems. Even if it only works partially it can still improve things. The main problem I see is deciding how to actually use it. It should not be something marking "easy questions". At the same time, in my mind many questions, if asked properly, do take the form of an "exercise", although arguably not of a "textbook exercise". But then it's not clear what the difference is between "exercise" and "textbook exercise". In many cases it's clear (e.g. all the N&C questions), but what about more advanced "exercise-like" questions? $\endgroup$
    – glS Mod
    May 12, 2020 at 8:51
  • $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch consider e.g. this question of mine as an example. Is this an exercise? I would argue it's not that different from a "textbook exercise", except for it being a bit harder to solve, and the answer being found in a paper rather than a textbook. If you think it should be marked as an exercise, then what are examples of questions that shouldn't? If not, why not? Wouldn't then the tag be a marker of how "low-level" the question is (which is subjective to the reader), rather than something pertaining to its content? $\endgroup$
    – glS Mod
    May 12, 2020 at 9:00
  • $\begingroup$ I agree it relates to the level. My feeling would be that this should apply to questions one should be able to answer after a standard quantum information course. $\endgroup$ May 12, 2020 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch right. So effectively a way to mark undergraduateish-level exercise-like questions. As long as we are clear on its scope I don't see any harm in trying. Tags are free after all. Let's see what others think $\endgroup$
    – glS Mod
    May 12, 2020 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ What makes me wonder whether this will work is that there have been no other votes or comments on this proposal, even though it got tagged as "featured". Meta participation on this site is very low (which I'm afraid is also reflected in things like tagging etc.) $\endgroup$ May 16, 2020 at 18:37
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    $\begingroup$ @NorbertSchuch yea, there is a rather small number of people engaging in maintenance and meta activities atm. The site is still relatively new, but I don't know how long did other sites take before developing a critical mass of people caring about these things. Still, the volume of questions is still manageable. If people don't give their opinion on meta well... that means that those that do get to decide for everyone else as well. I don't know how much we'd be able to manage tags, we'll see I guess. I'd just go and add the tag in a few days if no one comes out with an argument against it $\endgroup$
    – glS Mod
    May 16, 2020 at 19:29

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