I've noticed we get a few questions with the tag.

Here are a few questions that have the tag:

From what I can see, the tag is often applied when the OP wants to make it explicit that they want an answer to provide references to the academic literature.

My sense is that the tag was originally designed for questions where the OP is trying to find a specific paper but can't remember what it was.

I think that the standard of evidence on this site is such that references are important for any good answer. This is just part of our standard of evidence. And that most questions without the reference request tag would still expect or hope to see references to the literature.

Furthermore, I can't imagine that questions that share this tag would have anything relevant in common. And for the size of the tag, only 2 people follow the tag; contrast this with something like social psychology with 11 followers.

I prefer the idea that people just indicate in the question body that they are explicitly seeking references to the scientific literature in.


So, do we need the reference-request tag?

  • 2
    I also believe it was for "name that paper" questions, which is kinda a guessing game...
    – Josh
    Sep 4, 2013 at 4:24
  • 1
    No, we don't need it.
    – user3116
    Sep 4, 2013 at 9:13
  • 1
    It's also kinda a meta tag... looking bad for this tag's future!
    – Josh
    Sep 4, 2013 at 14:46
  • Interestingly, all the tags for guessing name listed in that article are still active and still be the popular tags of their sites
    – Ooker
    Oct 16, 2021 at 17:50

2 Answers 2


This isn't an answer to whether or not we want , I'll let the community decide that.

This is an answer to say, as it is now, the tag is being misused and we should remove it from questions unless they are looking for a specific article.

As an example: What is the study which shows that babies can teach young children empathy?

I was looking for the actual name of the study. I knew there was a specific reference I was looking for. That's the proper use of this tag. Just "give me some reference, any old reference" is an incorrect use for this tag.

  • 2
    I gave the tag wiki a tweak to make this a little more explicit. Sep 6, 2013 at 2:14
  • would splitting the tag to, say, "specific-reference-request" and "any-reference-request" be better?
    – Ooker
    Oct 16, 2021 at 15:22

Let's consider what tags are useful for:

  • Tags connect experts with questions they will be able to answer.
  • Tags are used in searching.
  • Tags can award badges.

At this, fails drastically. The tag does not categorize a specific type of expert knowledge which people filtering for it may know by heart. Or, which people may want to represent to be an expert in.

  • Tags are for sorting your question into specific, well-defined categories
  • They are used for (weak) statistics.

Of course. But. it doesn't guarantee said categorization is useful/meaningful. And, this only works if the intent of the tag is clear so all questions tagged as such are actually part of that category. As Josh points out, "is being misused". If it's misused more than others (tags overall are misused quite a bit) it's not useful in this regard either.

But, I would add: tags set expectations. They add implicit context to the question on how to treat it and what type of answer to expect.

This, to me, was the main reason for the existence of this tag. An answer to a question should not be more than a reference. But, to which degree is that not already clear from the question content? Does the tag add anything implicitly which is not already explicitly stated in such questions?

Possibly, there is a group of "experts" in scouring Google Scholar, or extremely well-versed in Google-fu, which may want to pick up the challenge to search for specific papers based on limited knowledge, but, this seems fringe enough to me to not justify the tag's existence and complications with it's misuse.

I vote: abolish it.

  • I think I have to agree with you based on what you have said here. Not thought of it in that way Oct 15, 2021 at 17:01
  • "tags set expectations" – Yes. I would say that when I need to find a reference for an information, it may be that I have a skepticism on it. "Does the tag add anything implicitly which is not already explicitly stated in such questions?" – so would having skepticism on the information be the implicit thing that the tag conveys?
    – Ooker
    Oct 16, 2021 at 15:37
  • @Ooker, all answers on this site require citations. That doesn't warrant a tag, as stated by the OP: "I think that the standard of evidence on this site is such that references are important for any good answer"
    – Steven Jeuris Mod
    Oct 16, 2021 at 17:10
  • Ah, I mistaken the two nuances that Josh points out. Sorry about that
    – Ooker
    Oct 16, 2021 at 17:47
  • How about disambiguating it rather than abolishing it totally?
    – Ooker
    Oct 17, 2021 at 17:50

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