At the moment there isn't a clear statement on the help page "How do I write a good answer?" saying that answers should preferably include references to back them up. For "good answers" I would say that this is almost a must.

To me, it feels like we have had an influx of new users (good) that sometimes post answers based on loose assumptions, often structured as an open discussion/argument, without any kind of references or background information to back them up (bad). These users are then often referred to the page "How do I write a good answer?". It is therefore unfortunate that a statement about the value of references is not included there.

The help page on How do I ask a good question? does include a statement on references, and something similar would be useful on the good answer page:

When in doubt, ask people to cite their sources, or to explain how/where they learned something. Even if we don’t agree with you, or tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, remember: we’re just trying to help.

A suggestion from me for the "good answer page" would be (maybe too specific though):

Provide references
Try to include references to back up the claims in your answer. Even if not absolutely necessary, it will strengthen the answer and can provide a point of entry into the literature for users reading it. It will also make it easier to evaluate how trustworthy your answer is. The most reliable references are research papers and textbooks, but also other sources such as science blogs and wikipedia can be used.

  • $\begingroup$ That page is not one we mods can simply edit, though I can ask SE to enable editing there. I'm not yet convinced that we should change the page unless we actually come up with a new policy on references. And then I'd probably also add that to other places new users are more likely to see. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2014 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, so this is a SE-wide page? I just thought it strange that a page supposed to describe a "good answer" does not mention references, since they are clearly valued here at BioSE (probably more so than on some SE-sites). I agree that it is related to a reference policy. However, the purpose of a reference policy would be to indicate what must be included in answers, not what we should strive for in "good answers", so I think a change could be done even if we lack a reference policy. [...cnd] $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2014 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ [...cnd] There are already many meta discussions (e.g. here) that clearly shows that references are wanted but not necessarily needed. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2014 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ Those pages are by default network-wide, but individual sites can override the general version with their own one. One small issue is that we don't get any updates to that page anymore as we override the network-wide one. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2014 at 11:13
  • $\begingroup$ I can now see that even ScepticsSE (arguably the site most anal about referenced claims) have not modified their How do I write a good answer?-page $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2014 at 11:19


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