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st: Asking Stata questions on Statalist
The Statalist FAQ continues to exist,
and it is advertised at the bottom of this
and every other Statalist posting, and we
hope it is useful.
Still, presenting advice in other forms from
time to time may also have its uses. What
follows is a personal distillation, but it
does draw on many interactions with others
in the user community.
Asking Stata questions on Statalist
1. You have -- naturally -- already looked
at the on-line help, read the manual, looked
at the FAQs at http://www.stata.com/support/faqs/
and asked the local expert. If not, please do so.
2. Did you do a search using -findit-?
If you don't know what -findit- is, look
at this FAQ:
3. Is your version of Stata up-to-date?
Your problem might already have been
identified and fixed. Type
. update query
in Stata to find out. If it is under your control,
please -update-. If it is not your control,
please ask the systems adminstrator to -update-.
4. What version of Stata you are using
and what date is it? Type
to find out. Quote what Stata types as the
first two lines, something like
Intercooled Stata 7.0 for Windows 98/95/NT
Born 11 June 2002
5. What command(s) are you using?
a. Is the command built-in? If so,
typing in Stata
. which <command>
will tell you that. For <command>,
substitute the name of the command
you are using. Then just name the command
in your posting. Use - - in your posting
around command names, as in this document.
Good example: I am using -regress-...
b. Is the command an official command
defined by an ado file?
. which <command>
will specify a file somewhere in BASE or UPDATES.
(In Stata, type -sysdir- to see where they are.)
Just name the command.
Good example: I am using -xtlogit-...
c. Is the command user-written and downloaded
from the SJ/STB, SSC or other archives?
. which <command>
should specify a file somewhere other than
BASE or UPDATES; and if the command is carefully
written it should give an internal version
number of the form 1.2.3.
Have you got the latest version
of the command? If it is from SSC,
use -ssc-. Type
. help ssc
If this doesn't work, you clearly
did not update (#2). See
to learn what alternatives are available.
Say what the command is and where and
who it comes from.
Good example: I am using -dmexog-
(version 1.4.1) from SSC written by Kit
Baum and Steven Stillman.
6. Tell us about your data as far
as is relevant to your question.
7. Say exactly what you typed and exactly
what Stata typed (or did) in response.
If you can, reproduce the error with one of
Stata's provided data sets or a simple concocted
data set which you include in your posting.
Bad example: The command -fiddle- worked yesterday,
but it is not working today. [No information]
(Remarkably or not, questions of this form
have appeared on Statalist...)
Bad example: I am using -frog-, but I just get
the message "invalid syntax". [Very little information]
Good example: I am trying to draw a time series
plot using -graph-. Here is a silly example
showing my problem with the auto data:
. gen time = _n
. graph mpg time, c(1) sy(i)
Stata says "invalid syntax". What I am doing wrong?
8. Please write carefully. List members often delete
badly written postings without reading them. They
will, of course, take note whenever it is clear
that you are not writing in your first language,
but postings marred by careless grammar, spelling
and punctuation and sloppy presentation generally
are often just too much like hard work to be worth bothering
about. Why should people put themselves out to
try to understand you when you are so thoughtless about
presenting your question?
9. Make sure that you answer any supplementary
questions which you may be asked. Wrap up
a thread whenever appropriate by reporting
what worked. The formula "Thanks in advance"
does not absolve you from this responsibility.
On that, and other matters relevant, see
10. Don't say "Is this a bug?".
Almost all the time, it isn't!
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