The Cognitive Sciences site is going to be slightly different from many of the other Stack Exchange sites. Unlike Stack Overflow, Server Fault, Super User, etc. our questions do not indicate a problem which can be solved by a series of steps. Answers on this site should be scientifically valid, and as such, should probably cite references or sources.

The moderators have a tool whereby we can mark a question or answer as lacking verifiable references or sources:

Screen capture of "This Post Does Not Cite Any References"

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

When should a moderator place this notice on an answer? What should a user do if their answer receives this notice? What level of citing references or sources should be required for answers?


3 Answers 3


I've brought up the issue of citations when the answer does not stand on it's own or makes claims that might be incorrect.

Some problem question types I've noticed are:

Personal Experience

Some answers I've found are more like "this is my experience with X" or "this is what I think about X", these answers might be acceptable on Quora but I think they're questionable at best on this site.

Example answers here and here.


I've seen some posts bring up "common knowledge" that is in fact incorrect, outdated or a common misconception. The only time the "consensus says X" should be used is if there is a good general or specific source to back up a claim, even if it's something so simple as a Wikipedia article. For instance, if you were simply defining Short Term Memory, no link or a Wikipedia link should suffice unless the answer's statement is questionable. If a post is incorrect or you have doubts, comment stating the problem.

Example answer here.

  • 1
    Does this answer imply we shouldn't add the notice ever but solely use comments?
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 13:38
  • 1
    @StevenJeuris well since 99% of users can't add post notices I wasn't really considering them...
    – Zelda
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 13:41

I imagine that increasing the burden of proof in answers reduces the number of answers you get. I think that while Cogsci is still in beta, perhaps it's best to value quantity of submissions. That tag is a useful one should a moderator want to "flag" the fact that an response is potentially questionable.

  • You make a very good point Andy; Our stats show that we're below the desired 2.5 answers/question ration, so discouraging further answers is not what we want to do!
    – Josh
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 13:14
  • 5
    @JoshGitlin I can see it both ways. While we need more content at the moment, lowering the standards might reduce the quality which IMO is much more important, especially to attract the audience we want. As always I think we should allow all content to be posted and request clarification before removing answers, but we shouldn't tolerate totally unsourced and not useful answers.
    – Zelda
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 14:16
  • 4
    I agree with Brocka. Quality should not be sacrificed for quantity. If quality is high, I think quantity will naturally increase.
    – Preece
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 0:31

Not everyone here is proficient in neuroscience, just as not everyone is proficient in psychology.

I have often commented that even experts learn new things. And what they "know" can change from later studies. I would challenge anyone who professes to know everything there is to know on a subject.

For these reasons, along with reasons pointed out in the other answers here, all claims must be backed with suitable references so that those claims can be independently verified, regardless of the reader's/answerer's background. This applies to both questions and answers.

If claims are not backed up, they should be downvoted and maybe removed.

I see the point about controlling bad information, but once the bad information is out there it is not easily controllable.

I have seen reports in newspapers and blogs with bad information regurgitated from bad information elsewhere countless numbers of times.

Once the OP has been given ample time to add required references, for site reputation purposes, unsubstantiated claims must be deleted.

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