I have noticed some answers contain just a link AND a quote verbatim from its link. Would that fall under the following?

Answers that do not fundamentally answer the question may be removed. This includes answers that are … barely more than a link to an external site

These quotes may answer the question outright. However, is it important to summarize the link/quote, if applicable? In addition, I do appreciate effort in paraphrasing, "taking the meat" out of a lengthy quote, and sourcing it for further/supplemental reading.


Aside: I debated a somewhat related issue on Meta Stack Overflow, albeit it had to do with the appropriate use of links.

Not sure why your question was downvoted. I think it's a good question so I +1'd to compensate. –  Ste Jul 13 '12 at 12:46
@Ste +1 for great comment in appreciation :D –  edmastermind29 Jul 13 '12 at 12:53
I agree it's an important matter. I really hope that this site doesn't end up being a citation place, where questions get one answer from a rulebook (or wikipedia) with a citation and not other input. –  posdef Jul 19 '12 at 7:26

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The thing I see a lot here and other places (and is something that drives me batty and to downvotes) is answers that are links to external sites, with some quotation, but no original content. We are not here to mirror Wikipedia, or Google, or any other Internet site. We are here to answer people's questions. If you can't do it in your own words with supporting quotes then you aren't trying hard enough.

One of SE's purposes is to make people better writers. You can't get better at writing if you aren't actually writing anything and are just copy and pasting things you find on the internet. If you're going to use outside sources (and you should) then remember: Every SE answer should be like a research paper.

Remember the things you learned in school about writing research papers.

  • Use integrated quotations. Don't quote more than you need. Form a sentence around the quote you need and integrate it.
  • Cite your sources (although if you aren't quoting this isn't as necessary, but it's still a good thing so people can find out more).
  • Make it clear you're quoting. If you're copy-pasting from the internet, use the quote syntax, don't make it look like something you took from the net is your own words. This is Plagiarism. In school this got you an F, on SE it gets your answer deleted and might get your accounts suspended.

  • Summarize where you can instead of quoting wholesale. this is important, instead of grabbing that 100 line quote, why not summarize the important stuff and use a smaller quote to make your point. This makes your answer much more readable.

Remembering these things and other will help your answer be better, and more importantly will help you be a better writer, which is what we're all really here for (even if we don't know it).

The issue I have with link only answers, in addition to everything above, is that those answers are useless if that link ever breaks (target site goes down or even just changes their link structure with no backwards compatibility). Without enough information about what the link was, the answer becomes completely useless and now makes this site worse instead of better.

In summary, link only answers and answer that just copy text wholesale are lazy. Don't be lazy, it deprives you of one of the primary benefits SE provides it's participants: becoming a better writer.

+1 Great answer. I don't like the deja-vu feeling I get, then notice an answer was copy + pasted...it dissapoints me. We all have the capability to research, but interpreting and disseminating the research is what stands out. –  edmastermind29 Jul 13 '12 at 13:07
@edmastermind29 the worst is when I copy/paste a paragraph into google and find the source they used in 2 seconds... –  wax eagle Jul 13 '12 at 13:38
Although, I agree with your answer, the link plus quote can also be used to indicate that the original questioner should just have googled for the answer! Something, I feel we have seen way too much on this site :-( –  Tonny Madsen Aug 6 '12 at 6:46

Is it important to summarize the link/quote?


People asking questions may have already read a wiki article or some other website which provided some information, partly answering the question. If they've posted here then no doubt they're expecting a substantial answer, elaborating on research they may have already done.

If quotes are provided with no supplementary text, the person asking the question is likely to ask "But why is that the case".

I use quotes a lot. They have their place in providing great information but I always provide my own text to add clarity to the text within the quote.

If I ask a question here I am happy to read quoted text and be directed to a source for further reading but I want to feel like someone has taken the time to answer my question.

If someone posts a quote and a link as an answer I don't think it shows enough effort.

That's my opinion on the matter anyway.

+1 Point taken. I would love to get a moderator's view on this. –  edmastermind29 Jul 13 '12 at 12:36
Yes, that's why I said that was just my opinion. Everyone will think differently on the subject. There are loads of link-only questions on SO - it's a shame yours was downvoted. –  Ste Jul 13 '12 at 12:48
If you saw my issue in SO....you would understand why I was infuriated! –  edmastermind29 Jul 13 '12 at 12:54
Your fury will pass. ;o) I've had answers deleted for similar reasons too. –  Ste Jul 13 '12 at 12:58
Ste, if someone answers your question with just a link and a quote, I agree that it doesn't show enough effort. But what action would you take? Would you edit their answer to provide the missing summary (and let them get the ensuing rep) or have their answer deleted so that someone else (maybe yourself) can repost the same link plus a summary so that someone who shows effort gets the rep. I mean, I don't think it is wise to throw the baby (the link pointing to the actual answer) out with the bathwater (the SE answer without any effort). –  Tyson Williams Aug 10 '12 at 13:43
@TysonWilliams - Initially, I'd probably comment suggesting that the original author expands their answer. In some scenarios I have posted what I deem to be a "better" answer because I think that the person asking the questions deserves one. I will often edit other people's answers to add sources or further information. I only flag for deletion if answers are incorrect. –  Ste Aug 10 '12 at 14:01
I guess it depends on each individual case - but I always aim to do what is in the best interests of the site and its community. –  Ste Aug 10 '12 at 14:02
@TysonWilliams reposting the exact same link and quote with some more explanation is acceptable, but it would be better to just add your additional explanation to the low quality post (Even though it rewards the low effort poster). –  wax eagle Aug 13 '12 at 3:04

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