Our What topics can I ask about here? page in the Help Center currently contains minimal, boilerplate info. It's probably time for us to start customizing it.

My answer below contains a proposed draft. Others should feel free to comment and/or propose a different draft in a separate answer. My draft is based on the "What can I ask?" pages of some other sites, such as

as well as on some discussions with @Rob.

On a related note, is it time for us to create an FAQ on Meta, like the ones for math.SE or TCS? Then many of the Meta questions/answers that I link to in my answer below can be converted to FAQ entries.


1 Answer 1


What topics can I ask about here?

Operations research (OR) is a set of mathematical and computational tools for making decisions about complex systems.

Operations Research Stack Exchange is for OR professionals, educators, practitioners, and students. If your question is about:

  • mathematical optimization models or algorithms (linear programming, nonlinear/integer/stochastic programming, and so on)
  • Markov chains or other types of stochastic processes
  • discrete-event or Monte Carlo simulation
  • OR applications such as supply chain management, energy, or health care

then you're in the right place.

Anyone can ask a question, regardless of skills and experience. Here are some resources to help you make your question as good as possible, and most likely to get good answers:

Before asking, please search or browse our existing questions to see if your question has been asked before. It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

Similarly, anyone can answer a question. Our community aims to create a lasting record of great answers to questions. Providing references to peer-reviewed literature or links to online resources is warmly welcomed. You can also incorporate the work of others under fair use doctrine, which particularly means that you must attribute any text, images, or other material that is not originally yours.

Programming questions are welcome here if they require OR knowledge or involve OR-specific software. If your question is more general, or if it would likely be useful to non-OR programmers, it might be better asked on Stack Overflow.

OR is an interdisciplinary field, and as such, certain questions might be on-topic both on OR.SE and on other Stack Exchange sites:

In cases such as these, you can use your own best judgment about which site to ask on, based on your own preference and on the type of answer you are hoping to receive. If the OR.SE community feels your question is off-topic, we'll let you know in a comment, or through close votes. Note that cross-posting on multiple SE sites is generally discouraged.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks @LarrySnyer610. Great draft. I thnik it's very comprehensive and you should post it. We can revise it over the course of time. $\endgroup$
    – Ehsan
    Commented Jul 12, 2019 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Ehsan thanks. Actually I can’t post it since it will go on the help pages. A community moderator will have to do it, or a mod when we get one. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2019 at 2:09
  • $\begingroup$ See also: Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, Real Questions Have Answers (links from Math.SE help/how-to-ask-beta). --- and add this caution: Don't ask a question with an image where instead of using MathJax you take a cellphone photo of a textbook or screenshot something leaving the conversion for others. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ In case that example gets deleted on Math.SE here's what it looked like after desperate edits and justification comments from the OP. The downvotes continue to roll in and no help is forthcoming. It used to be the case where someone would explain to not rely on images and instead to use MathJax but that no longer is something one can rely on. A brief blurb in our help that explains not to use images of equations (or homework notes) would be a great addition. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Rob what about adding those points (Good subjective bad subjective; real questions have answers; don’t use equation images) on the How do I ask a good question page instead? That seems to be a better fit to me, since the post above is about topics not style. That would mean we need to request an edit to the Good question page too, but I think it’s worth it. What do you think? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 13:37
  • $\begingroup$ Some of it is exactly duplicated on our /help/how-to-ask-beta but the equation images isn't, I think all the sites objecting to PhotoJax had to write up a discussion in their Meta (an example of which I have not had time to find) or explain in comments (which often people can no longer be bothered doing). Instead (look at that question on Math.SE now it's closed) they link to their ... [cont.] $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ Meta which says this - which is something we can do, have links in the help page you want to create which point to our Meta pages (which we have not yet written), ugh. So maybe a link to our help page that already exists and a one-liner where you mention MathJax to insist it be used and not to post images of equations. Additional Meta pages that we can link to will have to be written (unless you want to stub them in). $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ Larry, another of our obscure sites provides a Q&A about referencing the original paper. It might be a challenge to squeeze something from that webpage into this webpage but the link is certainly useful for a different, yet to be created, page about 'show your source, attribution, referencing, and plagiarism'. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 12:47
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps a short(?) list of subjects specifically on-topic would avoid some inevitable questions, for example this HNQ at Stats.SE leads to further searching, which winds up (amongst other places) at Princeton's OR&FE webpage: "Geometry/topology and statistical inference" - it wasn't obvious that question could have been asked here; so we lose some users and traffic. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Rob What sorts of topics do you mean? The post already lists some topics (optimization, Markov chains, etc.) -- do you mean something more specific (e.g., simplex method, ergodicity, facility location problems)? I worry that might be a bit too specific. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ Edge topics, or ones that might lead to the question: "Is X on-topic?"; things clearly on-topic should be omitted, while also being careful not to expand the scope of our site - doesn't have to be done today, just something for the job jar, and this might be edited into our "What topics can I ask about here?" page soon. $\endgroup$
    – Rob
    Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 22:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Rob OK, fair enough. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2019 at 23:18

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