I want to read up on a quite complex and important subject close to political science, but I'm unable to find any seemingly objective and analytical books on the subject. The subject seems to suffer quite heavily from bias and normative opinions, so the search seems a bit challenging.

Would this be an acceptable question?

I've read Are requests for references on-topic?, but that one is quite old and without a clear answer.

  • Well, ok... It doesn't seem to be much activity here on politics, so I'll just try.
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 13:43

3 Answers 3


If you're just asking for a list of resources on a topic, I would consider that to be somewhere between too broad/off topic, similar to how software recommendations are off topic on Stack Overflow.

But, if you're asking for references to back up an answer on a specific question, then that's fine.

I would recommend asking the question, and making it clear that you need references.
It would also be helpful to note why you need references. (maybe you need to relay the answer to someone else, and need something to demonstrate that the information is good information.

  • Thanks, I've asked it a while ago: politics.stackexchange.com/q/6596/4868 and updated it now. Would this question be good enough? Can I improve it in any way?
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 3:15
  • @Alex Your edit didn't fundamentally change the question. You still seem to be asking "where are the resources" than you are about any specific question about policy Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 17:50
  • Ah, now I understand what you meant, I read your answer with my optimistic-bias goggles. Then let me rephrase the question, I think I can make it fit...
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 3:19
  • I have now rephrased my question so that I think it fits.
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 15:11

In fact, the linked Q and its answers provide with several good points about reference requests.

My suggestion is below, but let me summarize the key points we need to take in our consideration:


  1. This site is far behind "healthy" status of questions per day criteria. So anything on-topic and objective is welcome;
  2. Site users often ask questions without proper "own research attempt", so chances of dupes and semi-dupes are higher. A good collection of entry-level information would be valuable.
  3. The referenced documents may be large. A brief quotation may be insufficient for answering certain questions.


  1. Like Michael Kingsmill's answer says, sets of references tend to be biased, according to the answerer's own political views;
  2. Referring Alenanno's answer, Politics is a bit different to Linguistics since the political situation may change dramatically. Think, for example, how useful today would be references about "Russian reset" of 2009. They're totally obsolete now;
  3. Counter Pro#2 in list above, people who don't research well on the Internet may also fail to search for existing reference-listing answers here (if we allow these);
  4. Also, questions/answers on literature requests may become targets for deliberate downvoting by those whose political views are opposite (here in Politics this is a bigger problem than on other SE sites).

So, we see that there are contradicting requirements, and it is not that easy to tell whether or not literature requests are good or bad.

What we can do is:

  1. Allow such questions;
  2. Forcibly make them Community Wiki;
  • As I see it, this is perhaps the only way forward for this site. There are many, many things which we cannot reasonably answer about politics. Questions about what the state of Political Science, however—and its sister disciplines as they relate to politics—is something we can answer. It seems to me to be well worth it to not only accept, but to encourage questions about citations. The solution to the issues in the cons is to press the use of peer reviewed references, or peer reviewed-like. News articles are quickly obsolete, and have no obligation to take opposition voices seriously. Commented Jun 6, 2016 at 14:45

One disconnect is that your politics.SE question isn't asking for a list of references - it's asking for a list of theoretical models for some kind of behaviors.

This sounds like a great example of a "good subjective" question. It can easily be answered by an expert with the appropriate background. Looking at the question as it is written, it looks like something that is easily answerable in a concise way. Nothing about it seems particularly broad - so long as you approach it with a theoretical mindset.

As an example of a similar kind of question, see Should an elected official feel obligated to vote on an issue based on the majority opinion of his constituents?. The wrong way to approach this would be (as someone pointed out in your original question) to create a list of all elected officials in the world and try to describe, person by person, what their obligations are.

A better way to answer is to start with the theory that has already been laid out and apply that here. In this case I already knew of an existing way to think about these models (from Edmund Burke) and the answer was easy.

Questions about empirical theory are just as straight-forward. However, they require that the person writing the answer have a background in political science (or similar discipline).

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