Lately, we have had a rather large number of cases where an answer is flagged and/or commented on because a significant part of the answer is quoted from elsewhere.

A few current examples:

How to recognize baseball pitches when watching television games?

Interpreting table tennis racket stats

What do the cards in table tennis mean?

What is a 'Bogey Competition'?

What is the scoring system in sailing?

Benefits of compression apparel

How to hit a high draw?

What is a Golden set? and what is the difference with Bagel set?

Heptathlon point system calculation

What actions are taken by FIFA/UEFA against what's known as filming or diving

In most cases, everybody agrees that the answers are basically correct...

But they are still not an expression of original content and there have been some requests for an original answer instead of a quote and a source and/or attribution.

In a few cases the discussion in comments has become rather heated and I would like to keep this on the meta site... Especially since we see more and more direct moderator messages as part of the wars requesting us to take side. Which not the idea of the moderator system.

In quite a few of the cases, one can discuss whether anybody on the site can/could have come up with a better, clearer or more precise answer than the one that is given. Something that can be even more difficult for those of us that does not have English as our native language.

From SO.Meta, you can find this FAQ post How do I write a good answer to a question? where the accepted answer is:

How to Write a Good Answer

  • Be clear.

  • Provide examples.

  • Link to more information and further reading.

  • Quote relevant material to keep the user from having to click on every link given to get basic information.

  • Revise your answer to include more information as it comes along.

  • Be sure to monitor your question for comments so that you can reply with explanation if questions come around about your answer.

Given this answer, one can question whether any of the above answers really are outside the spirit of SE or not.

Before the moderators start deleting answers and comments, I would like to make sure we all agree on the rules :-)

So... how original should an answer be before we can accept it?

(From other discussions on Sports.Meta, I think we are going to see more and more questions that are easily answered with a quote from some web source, so I fell this is a very relevant discussion.)

Apart from the raised issues above, there are also some general issues with quotes in general:

  • There are no source or attribution for the quote. This is clearly not good as it makes it rather difficult to get more information on the subject or even check an answer. Almost all content licenses on the web - including the one used by SE itself - requires a proper attribution for all quotes (if they allow you to quote at all - see below).

  • In some cases, the quoted text is not marked as such, and readers can be in doubt whether the content is original. I believe this is something everybody would object to.

  • The quoted text is more or less similar to some existing text. How similar an answer can be to some existing text is basically a copyright question. And given the number of copyright cases worldwide, it is probably safest to either include a strait unaltered quote or rewrite the material completely.

  • The content is copyrighted. This is a fussy situation as there are certain Fair Use rules. Although these rules differs between countries and depends on the type of content (e.g. facts or results versus prose or description), it is usually safe to quote smallers parts in answers - as long as you have a proper attribution for the quote. Also see Is there a guideline to quoting from copyrighted rule books?.

  • 1
    There are 2 problems here. 1 is plagiarism, the other is quote only answers. My reaction is far stronger towards the plagiarism. The quote only answers bother me, but the dishonesty of the plagiarism is the real issue that has been sparking flags. (Look at the first revision of many of the posts in question and you will see what we're griping about).
    – wax eagle
    Aug 10, 2012 at 14:25
  • If this question read "Plagiarism or not," the response would be unanimous...
    – user527
    Aug 12, 2012 at 19:18
  • @edmastermind29 And I can tell you that it does not for that very reason. We all agree on plagiarism is bad, but many of the issues with the questions above is not about plagiarism but rather about excess quoting and very little original text... Aug 12, 2012 at 19:30
  • @TonnyMadsen I understand. So, would answers with "excess quoting" be the issue alone, or would the issue be traced back to the question? Should questions on Sports SE encourage more answers of "expertise" and originality vs. questions that are answered via "excess quoting?" Some feel no need to "reinvent the wheel." Just a few thoughts.
    – user527
    Aug 12, 2012 at 20:05
  • 1
    @TonnyMadsen then this question is entirely redundant with meta.sports.stackexchange.com/questions/190/…. You're ignoring the real issue (that you have a blantant plagiarizer) in favor of rehashing a discussion we had over a week ago (in which we also dealt with the topic of plagiarism). Not sure why you feel dealing with plagiarism is a matter of "taking sides"
    – wax eagle
    Aug 13, 2012 at 2:43
  • @TonnyMadsen what are your views on this issue? haven't heard from you yet...
    – user527
    Aug 16, 2012 at 4:12
  • @edmastermind29 see below... Aug 16, 2012 at 11:29
  • When you down-vote meta discussions, can you please leave a comment as to why? The above is framed as a question and not an opinion, so a down-vote must mean you think it isn't a proper question? Or...? Aug 16, 2012 at 21:45
  • @TonnyMadsen according to meta's FAQ, votes are used to show agreement or disagreement...
    – user527
    Aug 16, 2012 at 23:24
  • @TonnyMadsen I'm sorry if I crossed a line here with any of my comments or you felt personally attacked. I know I've been quite strong in my disagreement and again I apologize if it came across too forcefully.
    – wax eagle
    Aug 24, 2012 at 19:36
  • @waxeagle Due to the rather big disagreements between a number of you and how I see the site develop, I have decided to resign. I have already initiated this with SE a couple of days and hope they can find a new moderator for Sports.SE. The two other moderators have been very quiet lately, so a new set of moderators might be needed... Aug 25, 2012 at 7:31

4 Answers 4


Answers with no original content whether correct or not, provide no lasting value to this site.

I feel very strongly about this, so let me say it again. Answers with no original content provide no lasting value to this site. If a question seems to merit an answer that is completely copied from another site than one of two things must be the case.

  • The person who answered the question is not looking hard enough to provide a complete explanation or summarize their source(s) into their own words.

  • The question is too simple and does not belong on an expert site about sports and should be closed.

Almost always the issue is the first (although I've seen a fair number of the second). The problem is that either people are lazy and don't want to actually spend the time to write a good answer, or they don't understand that this is how Stack Exchange sites work.

It's been said numerous times, but we aren't here to replicate Wikipedia. The moment this site descends into that it is in the process of failing.

I said this in my answer about quoting, but I'll say it again here. If you don't know the answer to a question, but want to answer anyways, treat it like a research paper. Find a few sources, mostly summarize and use a few small quotes to make your point. Quoting something and adding a single sentence, or worse copying text and passing it off as your own work is to me both dishonest and disrespectful to the people that are actually putting time and effort into giving valid responses.

People doing these kinds of things should be stopped, either by normal users (as we have been attempting to handle it) through downvotes and comments, or by moderators (deletions, warnings and suspensions). If the moderators are not willing to step in when there is clear violations like this then it is the community's job to make their feelings known. We have done this with flags, edits and comments.

  • just joined so many things that i don't know and i recently answered a question does ... table exist with a wikipedia link as table was so big and to summarize it was difficult. What should i have done? Jun 17, 2017 at 14:53

I have avoiding this discussion as my opinion on the matter is already put forth, by @Ste, probably in better words than what I would have managed.

However, I would like to relate this problem we are experiencing to our scope. I think a significant part of the problem is based on that fact that the FAQ states:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

... which, I guess, is essentially a reformulation from SO-FAQ:

Avoid asking questions that are subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion. This is not a discussion board, this is a place for questions that can be answered!

As @Robert Cartaino also pointed out in this great blog entry, this format doesn't apply well to all subjects.

Insisting on objectivity is fine for computing and mathematics. But once you get past the hard(ish) sciences, you veer towards the much softer social sciences. There are experts in these fields, but they are by definition, not exact. In fact, most academic fields don’t have objective answers. Topics like economics, engineering, the arts, literature, and social sciences don’t exactly have correct and incorrect answers. There is a growing list of proposals about increasingly subjective topics, and we believe many of them are going to make great Stack Exchange sites!

To cut to the chase, I think a lot of the interesting questions in sports are:

a. non-factual (the "right" answer cannot be determined with certainty, if there is one)

b. argumentative (reasons for something, training techniques or equipment-related)

c. is a fact/quote from a well-defined source (e.g. rulebook, hall of fame list etc)

As it stands in the FAQ, most of the questions we should be (and as a matter of fact we are) getting here are along the lines of the third alternative. Thus it should not be surprising that we have more often than not a single answer to questions, and almost always in the form of a quote. I realize the necessity to do the referencing properly, and I do not argue against the importance of original contribution. But it should not come as a shock to anyone that this has become such a problem, since the "correct" way to formulate questions here are usually very self-inhibiting.

I strongly urge all of you to read the blog post linked above, if you havent already, and that we incorporate and enforce the Back It Up! principle. Also the guidelines for subjective questions, should be featured in the FAQ. I think we will see improvement in the questions and answer, primarily in diversity, but also in quality.


Lately, we have had a rather large number of cases where an answer is flagged and/or commented on because a significant part of the answer is quoted from elsewhere.

To clarify, the reason why I flagged/commented on such answers was not because "a significant part of the answer is quoted from elsewhere," but because the answers appear to have been passed off as the OP's own (see edit histories) only to be debunked by a Google search and/or viewing the provided source. The issue is, "the quoted text is not marked as such, and readers can be in doubt whether the content is original."

This is the most blatant example I can provide: This answer from Sports SE and a source from Yahoo! Answers. Not to get into speculation, but it is highly unlikely that the OP of said answer was the same OP who answered the same question at Yahoo! Answers three years ago.

In addition, the user Yahoo! Answers "did a search for 'bogey competition,'" which implies that a search would have been adequate to answer the question.

In the words of Tonny Madsen (OP of this question),

"...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 :-("

I think we are going to see more and more questions that are easily answered with a quote from some web source

Aside: I asked a question about quotes in meta recently.

As you state, an answer with a quote and a source may be adequate. An official rules and regulations handbook may be quoted to answer a question about "Article 3, Section II, Rule 8". What I try to do is to summarize my research relevant in answering the question into a sentence or two when a quote is adequate. This shows, at the very least, comprehension and reasoning of said quote. Official documents and "amateur" sources alike may have a relevant quote that may adequately answer a question, and we take this in good faith as we are a community, not turnitin.com.

But they are still not an expression of original content and there have been some requests for an original answer instead of a quote and a source and/or attribution.

My request has, more or less, been don't mirror Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers, or other summarized sources (news media, for example). Quotes from these sites can be summarized in one's own words and further researched (in Wikipedia's case). An original answer can be built around a quote and source. To only have original answers without regard to quotes and sources (albeit, not in all cases) will diminish the credibility of Sports SE. One's experience/expertise about a given sport may or may not require documentation, but I would like to hold these people in high regard without the suspicion that they get their answers by Googling it.

So... how original should an answer be before we can accept it?

This comes off as "only original answers will be accepted." A user's set of guidelines is a good starting point, writing our answers as if we were writing a research paper.

Although original answers are preferred, the point has been made where a quote and source will be adequate in answering a question. If so, fine. However, I appreciate effort when I see it. Summarizing, quoting, and sourcing where relevant in answering the question is more preferable (and credible) than passing one's words off as his/her own.

Something that can be even more difficult for those of us that does not have English as our native language.

True. However, we also have to take into consideration one's ability to comprehend and disseminate information. Copy + Paste is not good practice.


I think it is rather difficult to form an opinion on this subject without looking on the user groups on the site.

At the beginning, we focused on the sports participants as the primary user group on the site. I would expect - and can easily be wrong - that this type of user will usually ask questions that cannot normally be answered with a quote and a link/attribution.

We now focus equally on the sports observers (also known as fans?) as a primary user group along with the participants. And it is my feeling from the questions I have seen so far, that these users often ask questions that can be answered by a quote - e.g. from a fact sheet or rule book - along with a link/attribution. Some of these answers (based almost entirely on a quote) can be improve on, but many cannot. E.g., I think it is rather difficult to improve on the quotes from rule books... (Sometimes, you might want to close a question as it is too easy to answer with Google, but that is another issue)

Before anybody wants to flame we, I do know that it is impossible to see whether specific users are participants or observers, but in most questions, you can get a pretty good idea whether the OP have "inside" knowledge of the sports in question or not..

Given the sports observer type of user and the questions (I at least think) they ask, I think we have to allow a certain degree of quoting.

I would hate to see pure quotes along with a link - as @wax eagle correctly states this will not add any value to our site, but I think many of the questions cannot be answered otherwise.

As for plagiarism and missing attributions, I think we all agree, these answers are not welcome on the site.

  • 1
    I agree...some questions could be answered by a quote from a fact sheet or a rule book. Most times, however, the OP (and myself quite frankly) want a summary of what rules say. But as @waxeagle points out, we're not here to replicate Wikipedia. I would prefer to quote from official documentation than Wikipedia...
    – user527
    Aug 16, 2012 at 13:26
  • I strongly disagree that any question can be answered better with just a quote than it could be with either a source summary with additional quotes, or with a quote and a paragraph or two from the answerer. If the answer does not feel like he has anything to add to the quote from the source, he doesn't belong to be answering the question in the first place. Answering with nothing but a quote is not in the spirit of Expert Q&A which is the goal of Stackexchange.
    – wax eagle
    Aug 16, 2012 at 17:43
  • 1
    @TonnyMadsen What is the root issue here...quotes in answers or questions that are "too easy to answer with Google?"
    – user527
    Aug 16, 2012 at 18:11
  • @edmastermind29 Probably both :-) I understand waxeagle point-of-view, but I also feel that we as a "fan" QA site will get a very large number of "too easy to answer with Google" questions. This is why I opposed the expanded FAQ audience clause... which of cause can be remedied by a strict rule on "too easy" questions as well... but will the "fan" users understand and accept that, and not "just" see Sports.SE as an easy-to-use QA site for all sort of "stupid/easy" questions? Aug 16, 2012 at 21:41
  • @edmastermind29 And the "too easy to answer..." questions will be answered with a quote and a link? Often? Always? Aug 16, 2012 at 21:42
  • @TonnyMadsen As a fan myself, I believe we have a potential to ask quality questions with answers from those with insight and expertise. Fans want to know about sports as well...and this is as close as some of us can get short of actually participating. In general, anyone has the capability to research...but I go on here to find answers from those who have had experience and expertise. If I find it on google, case closed.
    – user527
    Aug 16, 2012 at 23:32
  • @TonnyMadsen I disagree with your implication that "fans" ask "easy" questions...I mean, there are obvious cases, but not as a whole...
    – user527
    Aug 16, 2012 at 23:41
  • @TonnyMadsen I'm in favor of just closing these "too easy to answer" questions rather than let them be answered with a link a quote. If such a question exists that can't be expounded on past a link and a quote then they aren't worth our time.
    – wax eagle
    Aug 19, 2012 at 3:49
  • this issue isn't the audience, or the questions (for the most part) it's the answerers. You're denigrating a part of your mandated scope with this line of thinking, relegating fan questions to second class citizens.
    – wax eagle
    Aug 19, 2012 at 3:50

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