On the Skeptics SE site we require that any claim be referenced.

To have a look at our requirements please check Guidelines for Inadequately Referenced Answers

Anecdotes and unproven general facts should be the enemy of this site as we are seeking to make the internet a better place by providing facts. If people are claiming something to be a fact and it is not supported by a reference then you are at risk of producing more internet lies which devalues this site as a whole.

By making references to claims necessary you avoid people saying anything they like.

I propose that we make this a policy of the site and start providing comments to users on unreferenced questions that they need to provide a reference to all claims on this site as it is the policy of the site to do so.


4 Answers 4


I agree with GPierce. I browsed for few weeks now skeptics.SE. It deals also with alot history questions ("Did this really happen" and similar questions). Links/Quotes are prescribed for answers over there and it is imho a unique selling proposition vs. sites like reddit.

There are also pretty important and known effects in psychology concerning memory fallacies & deceptions (false memory syndrome) People have been interviewed and told wrong memories (unconscious lying). This happens esp. after decades (social memory and changing of history as it actually happened)

It really doesnt cost so much effort to find & include at least one link. I want to read facts here, no personal beliefs, no stories told by grandparents, opinions and interpretations, esp. for history of the 20th century.

Crosspost from

Should we include sources in answers?

  • When you say you agree with GPierce, what are you agreeing with? I don't see any post from GPierce on this page.
    – Joe
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 2:57

I definitely agree. Answers without references are basically worthless, as history is not an exact science and there is often more than one way to answer a question. Thus, it is very important that the readers know on what sources a given answer was based.


I agree with this in principle. However, peer-reviewed sources can vary significantly in there accounts of the same topic. Historians can have vastly different perspectives of an event.

If it is mandated that a citation be included for any answer- what type of documentation is acceptable? Revisionist accounts aren't preferred? Oral history isn't allowed?Where do draw the line on what is a valid source?

This is why I would tend to be against requiring sources. The voting system should vet low quality answers. That relies on us, the community to collectively judge the merit of an argument. If someone finds an answer on Wikipedia that is counter to what someone posts here, that also doesn't necessarily mean the answer here is wrong. Historiography is notoriously high variance.

  • 3
    If peer review sources differ, then I think the best answer would cover the contrasting POVs. Someone who is an expert in the question's area should know the reputable differences of interpretation and be equiped to present and provide citations for both sides.
    – Doug T.
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 19:14
  • 1
    Also a good historian knows there's no such thing as a "good source". There's just a source and the weaknesses associated with it. Oral history changes through the generations, but might have a wisp of truth in it. Historians who specialize in oral history should know the limits of oral history as a source and speak to those limitations in their answers.
    – Doug T.
    Commented Oct 31, 2011 at 19:16

Well, I'm going to have to spoil the party, and say we shouldn't do this.

Why? Because a lot of our questions are about history within living memory. Off the top of my head, we had a question a while back about whether there were bike locks in the Soviet Union.

Although some members don't see eye-to-eye with them politically, we're very lucky to have users here who lived through some Soviet history. Realistically, how likely is it that a question like the one above could be answered with 24-carat Harvard-style references? Personal experience is sometimes invaluable.

I suppose there's no issue with events from longer ago, but I'd be against a change which meant that actually living through the times in question isn't a valid basis for an answer.

  • 4
    I think citing personal experience is a valid citation. Not a high trust citation,,,,, but sufficient to meet the requirement. Anyone who has been through a divorce can explain why "personal experience" is utterly meaningless. People lie. lying is probably more characteristic of people than bipedalism.
    – MCW Mod
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 23:23
  • Ha. It's true. Everybody lies. But even lies can tell you something worthwhile. After all, what's a source if not a lie that's written down?
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 0:03

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