I am going to argue that a citation or link needs to be mandatory for every question, otherwise the question should be closed. I recognise that this a perennial question and proposition that has been raised numerous times.

Is it possible to have a giant floating banner that reads: "YOU MUST CITE YOUR CLAIMS […]"

Striking a balance between citations and common sense in answers

The standard of question crafting seems to be quite low and it takes a disproportionate amount of time for commentators to support and develop the question. Many questioners are first timers, with very few providing ongoing engagement or interested in answering questions. Closing questions off without links or citations will encourage deeper and more thoughtful engagement.

Many questions are not really related to research or subject to any serious consideration. The questions that get me upset are interesting questions but are based on opinion, TV shows or a general feeling without any attempt to read or google any background information. As the result the question is very conceptual, and the OP has not done the required reading to understand the complexity of the background answer nor the research basis for their opinion.

I have had responses where the OP gets frustrated that their broad comfortable generalisation is fictional and not based on research, resulting in discouragement for people who answer.

When prompted for a citation or link, negative or sarcastic remarks tends to be more likely than not. OPs can feel that responders are being too "intellectual" and "too academic" or inaccessible which has been the previous worries in other posts. However, there are Reddit, Facebook and other groups that do not require any standard that they should be posing their questions.

If we make closing questions without links or effort the norm, we can protect those who are interested in developing an engaged and stimulating SE without subjecting them to hostile OPs. The baseline effort for a question should at least be a simple google and ideally a nice journal citation. There are plenty of open-access journals accessible through google as well. Hopefully taking these steps will increase the standard and the quality of questions resulting in more interest and engagement. Thoughts?

  • 2
    I would not object to relying even more on the 'not framed in' close reason, but possibly not to the extent you propose here. Either way, as an individual you can always choose to cast more close votes yourself.
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Nov 12, 2019 at 9:22
  • I do not think that a link or a citation is too much to ask. It feels like most of the questions here are hypotheticals and thought bubbles. Requiring a link will mean that at least another person has made an effort to write about it. I prefer having more of a consensus here before flagging and casting votes. If as usual, no one cares, then the status quo remains and we continue to be a dumping ground for all the weird and wonderful thought bubbles that people may have.
    – Poidah
    Nov 12, 2019 at 9:35
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    I think this is exactly what we have the "not framed in..." close reason for. You're going to get the same negative reactions from OPs if you change the close reason to be "not researched". I'd suggest leaving a comment that says why you've voted to close, suggest that a link or reference would improve the question, and then ignore or flag for moderators any vitriol that comes out while trying to not take it too personally.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Nov 12, 2019 at 16:29
  • I missed the previous discussion about "not framed in" and the previous evolution. psychology.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2277/… psychology.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2312/…
    – Poidah
    Nov 13, 2019 at 2:56
  • It sounds like the SE has moved away from this "not framed in" approach which seemed to have a higher standard of questioning, such as research papers, etc. Also, the onus was on the OP was that the question was in the "field". I still think having any link and any citation is a lower bar and will help improve the quality of questions and hopefully develop ongoing engagement as people learn who to cite and navigate resources and open source materials, etc. Also get the sense that the group here is comfortable for question closers to be subject to abuse and angst from the OP
    – Poidah
    Nov 13, 2019 at 3:02
  • @Poidah I don't think it's ok just that it's not really avoidable, without changes to the system like hiding the identity of the close voters. I often handle flags on angry comments from OPs with closed questions and typically add my own supportive comment while removing the rude one.
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Nov 13, 2019 at 19:52
  • Its also annoying reading questions that others have already asked to change and update their questions when there is no response. If the question is closed then less people would be wasting their time going through questions that are poorly developed and poorly thought through.
    – Poidah
    Nov 17, 2019 at 1:57

3 Answers 3


My answer to this comes from my pre-existing bias that answer quality is far more important than question quality.

I certainly would like references to be mandatory on answers, as I mentioned previously. However, this was not actioned, and we continue to rely on mod post notices for citations needed, and downvoting to tackle this. So given the current standard for answers, I don't see anything further happening for questions - ie, I recommend upgrading our standard for answers first.

For the record, I have a simple voting system for questions: If you provide a citation or link, you get my vote, otherwise you don't. This doesn't mean that I think citations or links are either sufficient or necessary for good questions, but I only get 1 vote, and rely on others having different criteria for what makes good questions to make the system work. In reality, by voting this way, I've noticed that I upvote for just as many bad questions (that end up getting downvoted or closed) as good ones.

Please vote down bad questions, vote to close them, flag them, whatever. If others agree, then they will get closed.

  • Some answers do not have citations nor require one. Especially to the more esoteric and more conceptual questions that require pointing in a general direction rather than specific citation. This onus on answers rather than questions places a massive and I would argue unreciprocated responsibility on the answerers. Many questions could be classified as trivia. It feels like "Whack-a-mole" day trying to develop and encourage questioners and OPs to progressive a bit more than just trivia. But I defer to the group. It feels like the consensus is that we are happy with trivia level questions
    – Poidah
    Nov 12, 2019 at 23:47
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    @Poidah This just posted: stackoverflow.blog/2019/11/13/… - seems that the SE folks agree with you.
    – Arnon Weinberg Mod
    Nov 13, 2019 at 19:43
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    Great discussion on StackOverflow. Thank you Arnon. I think much of my frustration is that question askers do not make an effort with the context and provide adequate background and want the answerers to provide background education plus answering the question. However, the background usually requires years of learning and experience which can be very off-putting to the new asker. Having a link or citation is crucial to encouraging to step onto that journey of learning and improving their background knowledge rather than falling into an entitled and demanding stance
    – Poidah
    Nov 13, 2019 at 22:41
  • I like this comment from that StackOverflow article - "You also need to be conscious of the fact that there is a lot of information that is extraneous. You need to know what parts of the error message to include and what parts are unique to your machine. You need to include the steps you’ve taken so far and the result of your testing. In short, you need to be an expert question asker to ensure you’re going to get the best answer. That takes skill and experience, it’s valuable, and it’s something we want to celebrate." - Getting new askers to appreciate this is crucial...
    – Poidah
    Nov 13, 2019 at 22:42

Converting something I had posted as a comment into more of an answer...

  1. I disagree that we should explicitly require a citation or link for every question. There are too many cases where a good question can be asked without a citation (or where a citation would not really improve the question).

  2. In the situations described in this meta question, where new users unfamiliar with the fields of study here post uninformed questions based on pop culture sources, speculation, or folklore/heresay, we have the custom close reason "not framed in psychology or neuroscience". We also have a short meta FAQ on this close reason: Why was my question closed as "not framed in psychology or neuroscience"?

Therefore, I'd recommend for these sorts of questions that we vote to close using this close reason, and possibly include a comment linking to that meta as a suggestion for how they could improve their post to have it reopened/avoid closure.

  • Happy to agree to disagree Bryan. I think a good question is not detracted nor reduced by having a citation or a link. I would also argue that good questioners appreciate and are encouraged by having a mandate of a citation or link. It is the poor questioners that really detract and are demoralising. A citation and a link provides a great way for neutral discussion rather than poor questioners attacking people's credibility. If a questioner cannot find a link or a citation, then at least the discussion would be focused on resources rather than the dissatisfaction of the answer.
    – Poidah
    Dec 13, 2019 at 1:51
  • @Poidah I didnt say detracted or reduced, I said not improved. In any case, even if you disagree with my (1), you can probably mostly follow the (2). I also, personally, wouldn't be offended if you asked everyone for a citation, just that I won't necessarily do so myself
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Dec 13, 2019 at 2:34
  • You didn't, but I was arguing against aspects that may be problematic. I don't really care now. I am barely in the SE anymore as the result of this. I feel quite drained and quite frustrated. Questions that I am interested in answering without a link or a citation seems to be always arduous and just about always a waste of my time. Questioners don't not understand the significance of their questions. They may have misconceptions and get angry with a learned reply. A citation and a link does more than just improve the question and it helps make answering more enjoyable too.
    – Poidah
    Dec 13, 2019 at 7:31

Jeromy Anglim’s answer to prior research in questions says:

I agree that good scientific questions will typically show prior research. However, I don't think that prior research per se should be a requirement for questions on this site. I'm much more concerned with issues like:

  • Is the question answerable in a scientific way? (e.g., Is the scope of the question appropriate?)
  • If such a question was answered, would it improve the Internet?

The thing is that answers require citations to back claims made (within reason of course).

With this in mind, I think that

(within reason) prior research should be required and citations for that research should be provided.

Looking for, and providing citations to, reliable sources of information takes time; and if information on prior research provides the required citations, this will greatly cut the time down.

Not only that, but those who read the question and know not a lot (or nothing) about the subject will also be helped with the sources provided. Maybe that person who didn’t know about the subject finds something else which answers the question, in which case citations to prior research increases chances of an answer.

A balance is needed, of course. Citations won’t be needed for common sense and generally well known information. Citations should still be provided regarding information well known within the relevant field of study but not necessarily well known in the “general population”.

  • The problem Chris, is that people generally don't know what is common sense and what is generally well known. Just about all the questions refer to nothing, and all are assumed to be common sense and known. References to tv shows that none of us have seen and can't easily access are often regarded by the poster as "well known".
    – Poidah
    Dec 12, 2019 at 13:22
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    Hmmm, that’s true @Poidah Dec 12, 2019 at 13:25

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