A user named Jürgen Böhm recently posted two questions which boiled down to checking whether or not his proof is correct. I left a comment on the second one saying that I don't think this is appropriate for MO, mainly because the software isn't really set up for it. He responded that this behavior is not forbidden in the FAQ.

I seem to recall this issue being discussed on the old meta years ago. I also remember that MO is not to be used to check whether or not ArXiV papers are correct. Anyway, can we get some consensus about whether or not these types of questions are appropriate? If others agree with me, maybe we can add a sentence to the FAQ?

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    $\begingroup$ Vote to close with "Off topic" because "This question belongs in another site on the StackExchange network", namely math.stackexchange.com. I think questions of this kind would be great there. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ I also voted to close. I don't think it is appropriate for MO to be used to check the correctness of one's proof. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 0:32
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, glad to hear I wasn't completely off base. Thanks $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 0:41
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    $\begingroup$ Somebody would have to invent a MO type theory, then. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 21:44

1 Answer 1


The thread http://mathoverflow.tqft.net/discussion/973/where-is-the-hole-in-my-proof/ -- and related discussions linked to from that thread -- are sort of relevant to precedents and consensus-forming regarding these sorts of questions.

Basically there was a fair bit of agreement that asking for evaluations of preprints was off-base; published papers are fair game for MO queries.

Questions of the form "is my proof correct" may be considered okay if and only if the 'level' is right. For example, Qiaochu Yuan observed that often

the basic problem is this: if you already have a proof, you should already be capable of checking it yourself. If you can't readily check it yourself because you don't understand concept C well enough, you should ask a question about concept C instead of a question about your proof.

A common example of the wrong sort of question is where someone lazily links to his pdf file and asks people to give a thumbs-up or down.

On the other hand, Ben Webster observed that

a question of the form "Here are two facts, it seems to me like they contradict each other. Why am I wrong?" is basically acceptable (maybe because I've been annoyed by so many of them). That's completely different from asking people to vet a preprint (which I think is mostly what people have complained about in the past).

That's good because it typically gets right down to the mathematical meat in an engaged and serious way.

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    $\begingroup$ Similar to the last quote, I would think a question of the form "why doesn't this proof of Theorem X actually prove Stronger Statement Y?" would in general be acceptable. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 3:18
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    $\begingroup$ And certainly questions of the form "can hypothesis A be removed from Theorem X" have been asked many times on MO. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 3:19
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    $\begingroup$ One proviso about published papers is that papers about famous open problems in obscure journals are not welcome (a little while ago, for instance, someone asked about a "proof" of Navier-Stokes that was published in an obscure journal somewhere, and it was IMHO rightfully closed). Also, I don't think that even for published papers it would be usually acceptable to just ask if they are correct or not, though I can imagine some rare situations where it might. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 4:36
  • $\begingroup$ @AndyPutman Certainly I agree with those provisos (they are perfectly consonant with the rest of my response regarding ordinary MO standards); that paragraph is mainly to say that unpublished papers are generally off-limits. $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble Mod
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 4:42
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    $\begingroup$ The opinion that it's OK to ask about the correctness of published papers is a special case of Ben's opinion that it's OK to ask about apparently contradictory facts. Publication usually implies that someone other than the author believes that the paper is correct. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ It used to imply that, Tom. Not as much now. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ Since the link at the beginning of this answer isn't working at the moment, here is a least a link to Wayback Machine. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 5:22

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