I am new to MathOverflow.

I am a master of mathematics student. I wanted to ask if questions in research papers ( regarding what I am not able to understand in the paper ) can be asked on MathOverflow or they must be asked on Math Stack Exchange?

Can someone please tell

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    $\begingroup$ I have added the tag (on-topic), since the question is basically asking whether one specific type of questions is no topic or not. Mathematics is mentioned in the question - but I wasn't really sure whether to add the (math-stackexchange) tag or not. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 10:42
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    $\begingroup$ It would probably depend on the type of difficulty you are encountering; side note: I would not say you "doubt" a result, but just that you request a clarification; the "doubt" suggests you think the result is wrong, which is something you would only want to state if you're really certain. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Carlo Beenakker I mean I have questions in proof or other articles within the question, I didn't mean that I am thinking that result is wrong. $\endgroup$
    – Arnold
    Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 13:18
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    $\begingroup$ @CarloBeenakker I think that some people often mean question when they say doubt - here is a related discussion at Mathematics Meta: What exactly might non-native speakers mean by “doubt”? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17, 2020 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ This usage of "doubt" is common in Indian English. In fact, you can find discussion of this in english.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 12:52
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    $\begingroup$ @GeraldEdgar Perhaps you mean questions such as this one: Can “doubt” sometimes mean “question”? (The other questions linked to that one seem related too.) Anyway, it seems that so far there were more comments about the linguistics and the formulation of the above post than about the actual question which is being asked. (I have to accept my share of the responsibility for that digression.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ In case of doubt about relevance to MO, I'd suggest to first post at MathSE, and post later here if you have no useful feedback. If you're confident enough that the question is research-level, you can also post directly on MO. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 17:32
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    $\begingroup$ I would say if it is a well-formulated problem and you are sure it does not follow directly from a textbook reference, then it is on-topic here. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2020 at 18:31
  • $\begingroup$ In spanish, for example, the noun "duda" (doubt) is often used as a synonym for "pregunta" (question). I supose that the same happens in other languages. $\endgroup$
    – efs
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ I was going to say, is Spanish the first language of the poster as you do not 'ask' doubts in English but you do in Spanish. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2020 at 11:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Tom You don´t ask doubts in Spanish either. Sometimes when you say (in spanish) "I have a doubt" you mean "there is something I don´t understand" or "there is something I don´t know". Those instances of "I have a doubt" will almost certainly be followed by an actual question with the intention of resolving "the doubt". $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ I meant in the context of 'Si tienes alguna duda, preguntame', not literally 'to ask doubts', obviously you can't literally say 'preguntar dudas'. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 22:14

1 Answer 1


I'd say that this is a bit of a grey area. If you want to ask a question of this type then you should prepare it carefully: do your best to isolate the specific point that you are confused about, explain it carefully, make sure that you understand the definitions of all the ingredients, and so on. If you cannot isolate a specific point of confusion, then this may not be a good question for MathOverflow.

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    $\begingroup$ I would also add that probably one should do their due diligence, by first contacting the authors to see if they can clarify the point. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2020 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ @PaceNielsen I don't agree with that. Certainly, if someone has difficulty with one of my papers then I would prefer for them to ask on MathOverflow rather than contacting me by email. That way, other people may answer the question before I need to. Moreover, the answer will be publicly visible and searchable, which would not be the case if it was given in private communication. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 26, 2020 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ As an author, I'm the one who has the primary obligation to explain my own work. Also, from my experience on MathOverflow, when people ask questions about papers they are not the type of questions that others find useful, nor do people get stuck at the same place very often. So generally I disagree with your assessment, and would want the person to not clutter the internet with highly technical specific questions about a paper that the author is willing to answer. [Also, if the author does feel it is a confusing point, then they can post the answer to their website.] $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2020 at 15:35

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