I know their is somewhat of an existing debate on answers being required to provide sources. However, I have come across quite a few answers that are solid answers and prove to be correct but lack citations or a source in a particular (key) part of the answer. Would it be inappropriate to edit answers like this to provide the missing source and possibly even provide more legitimacy to the answer?

NOTE: The editing process is generally reviewed by peers and therefore should not be detrimental to the person who originally provided the answer.

4 Answers 4


This is a community site, if you have the rep you can edit answers, it has been done before. If you don't have the rep you can put your edits in for approval by one of the moderators - this has also happened. While it is great to have sources, sometimes they do happen because someone is knowledgable enough on the subject to provide an answer without citation. If the answer can be improved by them, by all means do so. If the answer suffers for it, though I don't know why that would happen if the citations improved the answer, then they would be edited out by someone with enough rep or a mod.


Frankly, if you have a supporting link that can be applied directly to existing text in the answer (eg: if someone had just gone in and added the link in your question without changing the text), then I can't imagine the author being upset by the edit. After all, a better-supported question or answer is more likely to get upvotes. If they don't like it for some weird reason, they can always take it back out.

For slightly more drastic edits, if you aren't sure you could consider giving your rationale in a comment. But please don't be afraid to improve things that need improving.

Just use your powers for good. :-)


I agree with Steven Drennon's concern that the site should not become a collection of links, but I do think that including sources that are ON POINT can only help an answer.


My suggestion would be to add the sources or reference links to the bottom of the original answer. If you have a link that is an exact quote then you can edit a portion of the answer to provide that link. Keep in mind that the main point of SE sites is to provide answers, and not just a collection of links. The whole idea is that someone conducting a search would find the results on one of our pages and not someone else's page.

  • I completely agree with making our site elite, however I would suggest that without data to back up an answer the answer fails to be elite. I am not saying that someone can't know without proof of said knowledge but at the same time sourcing provides legitimacy and may indeed be what sets History.SE apart from other Q&A sites.
    – E1Suave
    May 27, 2012 at 7:46
  • 1
    Even if the answer provided legit sources that lead the individual who provided the question elsewhere (to another site or book), the answer itself should be credited with authority. Simply providing a question with an answer is great, but also providing the proof and further reading is exemplary. If History.SE could be known for not only providing great answers but providing the links to further details as well, we at History.SE certainly aren't hurt by this. In fact I would say we would benefit from this type of legitimacy.
    – E1Suave
    May 27, 2012 at 8:01

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