I have read the meta posts FAQ proposal: Back It Up and Don't Repeat Others and What can we do about me-too answers?. It is clear that repeating what is already covered in other answers is heavily discouraged here. It is somewhat ambiguous (to me) if this only applies to other answers posted here or to content copied from other websites as well.

Assume that the answer gives proper attribution to the source with a link, so plagiarism is not my issue here. However, the entire answer consists of text copied from elsewhere. There is no additional commentary or contribution from the author.

I would like to hear if the community considers such answers useful. (I have refrained from posting a specific answer as an example, but if it is really necessary to answer this question, I will add it.)

  • Depends on the context. Sometimes external links will die, so having a copy of the relevant information will be valuable on this site. The question is, has the user only taken the relevant information or are they just copy and pasting wily nily? If it's the latter, then it needs a good editing or possible removal if it's really not relevant.
    – Draken
    Jan 16 '17 at 8:02
  • The user has copy-pasted several paragraphs from an external website with no additional contribution of their own.
    – Masked Man
    Jan 16 '17 at 8:41
  • 2
    And? If it's relevant and attributed, then it's fine by my eyes. Possibly not worthy of an upvote, but they've done everything correct. If anything, it shows the original question asker might want to have done a little more research before asking the question if it can be answered by a good Google search. The internet is full of people copy and pasting, at least this one said where they copied it from. In this modern day age, who can come up with an original idea?
    – Draken
    Jan 16 '17 at 9:04
  • 1
    Fair point, I will wait for a while more to see if other agree. I don't feel strongly either way.
    – Masked Man
    Jan 16 '17 at 13:21
  • We have a stance? Jan 16 '17 at 17:08
  • 1
    @WorkerDrone That's what I wanted to know, hence the question.
    – Masked Man
    Jan 17 '17 at 5:15

Stack Exchange guidance

The help center has a good explanation on this subject, too.

I would encourage people to make edits to answers which do this and do not clearly show they are copying content from elsewhere.

For example, consider the following answers:


Answer One

Lots of text blah blah blah.

Another shamelessly copied paragraph.

From here.


Answer Two

From the Workplace:

Lots of text blah blah blah.

Another shamelessly copied paragraph.

How you cite matters

I will absolutely downvote the first of these examples, because while it might cite the source, it's doing so in a way that makes it not immediately obvious the answerer copy/pasted it.

The second however? It's a clearly attributed copy paste using the built-in quote feature. I always try to do it this way, such as this answer and I think it's beneficial to everyone if you do cite things in a way that makes it really clear you are directly quoting.

  • 1
    If you can recognize that the text is quoted though not well cited, why not just edit Answer 1 to look more like Answer 2?
    – David K
    Jan 17 '17 at 13:03
  • @DavidK Good point. However, I think the problem there is it is not always clear how much of the content above needs to be blockquoted, until you actually go to the link and figure out what is copied. In enderland's example, for instance, is only "Another shamelessly copied paragraph." copied from link, or also "Lots of text blah blah blah."? I think it would be better to downvote and leave a comment urging the OP to clean it himself.
    – Masked Man
    Jan 17 '17 at 17:04
  • 1
    @DavidK I have done that, too. I have a fairly low tolerance for blatant copy/pasting though and sometimes a downvote and a comment are more useful at actually changing behavior than simply fixing it and enabling it.
    – enderland
    Jan 17 '17 at 17:05

What is our stance on entire answers copied from other websites (with attribution)?

We don't have one. Everything depends on the context.

I assumed there'd be a canonical thread on this on the main meta but there doesn't seem to be. The help pages have a section on references which does state:

Do not copy the complete text of external sources; instead, use their words and ideas to support your own.

But in practice it's not always required to do so. I believe the technical sites consider it acceptable to simply reproduce content without an editorial as long as it actually answers the question. There is no reason why we should do things differently here.

High level legal questions are often answerable by simply linking to a relevant reading of the applicable employment laws. As an example, consider two of the most reference-heavy answers I've ever submitted: 1 and 2. While I did add summaries and more detailed analysis since I was aiming for a comprehensive answer, in both cases the question can be fully answered by quoting a single section of the source material. That would still make for a perfectly acceptable answer. I actually have multiple answers were my only original contribution was an introduction of a quote block with "[Blogger] covers the best way to [do X / avoid Y / deal with Z] in [this article]: [quoted text]".

  • I seemed to remember that on SO, the things about quoting wasn't like this, it was preferred to quote only the most relevant part of the referenced without changing the wording. Because if there is someone interpreting and rephrasing, the result might be different.
    – Walfrat
    Jan 17 '17 at 15:14

IMO, if it is properly attributed, then there is no problem.

Whether you think it should be upvoted is a personal decision, but as an answer, it's perfectly On-Topic.


So long as their is proper attribution, it's fine IMO. It's better than a link, and paraphrasing is unnecessary. While it's not technically the contributors own material, this site has been enriched by new information not previously held. There is no sense re inventing the wheel when there's a perfectly good schematic for it's design elsewhere.

Aside from that, vote up or vote down depending on how well you feel the answer suits the question.

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