The tag is currently described as: “this tag is used if a reference is needed in a paper or textbook on a specific result.”

I have found current usage of this tag too broad to be meaningful (and therefore liked François Dorais’s question about tag issues). In particular,

  • if this tag applies to any post that says “references welcome”…
  • if this tag applies whenever someone does not know if good references exist…
  • if this tag applies to any question which might be well answered by an existing reference…

then it applies to almost all questions, and is not useful. Nonetheless the tag is often used for these reasons.

I propose to redefine this tag more specifically about requests for references as opposed to requests for mathematical results:

Requests for references on results which are already known to the person asking the question, e.g.:

  • results which have been used elsewhere without comment,
  • results which seem like simpler variants of results elsewhere,
  • results which you have proved and suspect have been proved elsewhere.

Would other people here want to describe the tag like this? And if so, how might we remove the incompatible prior uses of the tag? Or would others have comments in favor of the current description, or other proposals?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think this is a good suggestion. I have personally used the tag in the past when asking for surely known results in the literature that I needed a reference for, not to know why the result was true or an outright explanation of it (for instance the results of specific worked-out examples I suspected were done somewhere). But it was a soft boundary, and I couldn't point to my usage as being ideal. $\endgroup$
    – David Roberts Mod
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 2:43
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I agree that the current use of this tag is too broad and the given suggestion sounds good. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ Does this mean that my use of the reference-request tag in my question here: mathoverflow.net/q/431216/148766 was inappropriate? Link for context, but basically I'm asking a question and also asking if there's any good expository readings related to my question, since I couldn't find any in google. My hope is that I can get an answer to my immediate question plus some grad-student level resources -- motivated by the "teach me how to fish" adage :) Was this an incorrect use of the tag? $\endgroup$
    – Eric
    Commented Sep 27, 2022 at 14:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Eric, I think that’s ok; “what are references for tbe calculation of Ext of a chain complex” is a fair subquestion and fits the prooosed tag definition. $\endgroup$
    – user44143
    Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 2:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ By the way I'd prefer "results which you have proved and suspect have been proved elsewhere" be omitted, so avoid encouraging self-advertisement. Indeed I think I've already seen posts essentially along these lines, where presumably OP knows/expects that the result is new and disguises the advertisement into an existence-of-a-reference verification. Actually, just "Requests for references on results which are already known to the person asking the question, e.g., results which have been used elsewhere without reference." sounds enough to me. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ For what it's worth, I passionately hate this tag but I'm not interested in rocking the boat on this one. Would it be helpful to rename the tag to something more active and deliberate like looking-for-a-reference, or perhaps something narrower like literature-reference-request? Both of these would, I think, rule out the "looking for a proof but a reference is fine" interpretation. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 22:25


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