I'm new to this SE site and haven't cast any votes on answers yet. I've been withholding because I'm not sure how to vote. An up vote can express a few different things, such as “insightful!”, “well-written!”, “funny!”, “made me think!” or “well-researched!”. I see there's been some discussion about whether answers should provide sources/references, and personally I think on a site dealing with history they really should. Especially since, if I understand the answers to my earlier question correctly, this site is not supposed to be a problem-oriented SE site where answers are mostly evaluated on their helpfulness, but an understanding-oriented SE site where answers are mostly evaluated on their accuracy. This puts me in a dilemma when seeing the many answers on this site that do seem “insightful” or “well-written” but which do not seem particularly “well-researched” because they don't provide any references. Should I up-vote anyway or withhold completely? It makes me wish I could do something like cast a half vote to incentivize the answerer to further improve the answer by providing references.

So I have two questions really: (1) Should there be some way, that is not tangled up in the many different things an up vote can express, to incentivize answerers to provide well-researched answers? (2) If so, I assume an addition like half votes or any other site-specific mechanism (“scholarship ratings”?) is unlikely to be added to the SE software, but is there something else that could be done? The cooking SE site is providing encouragement by doing weekly prizes, which is at least one idea.

2 Answers 2


IMHO, adding a comment saying something along the lines of, "Interesting answer. I'd vote this up, if it had references." should be plenty. Its worked for me in the past.

If it particularly bugs you, there's nothing stopping you from finding the missing references yourself and adding them.

  • Well...at 101 you personally probably don't have enough rep to modify answers yet, but I think you might have enough to suggest edits. If your edit consists of a good reference for the answer, I can't imagine it not getting approved.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 21:08
  • 1
    You're right, one could always ask for references through a comment; but looking at the answers already on this site, I had the feeling I would have to be doing that a lot. Given that others have raised the point that this site really should have more references in its answers, I was wondering if it wouldn't help to have some more specific “incentive mechanism” to promote this. As for your second point, I don't really understand it. Yes, I can fact-check an answer myself, but that still doesn't tell me what sources the answerer used.
    – Rinzwind
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 21:37
  • @Rinzwind - My point is that, if its a good answer, they most likely didn't come up with everything in it on the spot. There's bound to be someone else out there (on the internet) saying the same thing. If you can find that easily (eg: the right wikipedia page), it might be more productive to just add the link yourself rather than complain about it not being done by someone else in a comment.
    – T.E.D. Mod
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 23:09
  • 2
    I think I understand your point. But for me it's in the difference between having an occasional complaint of lacking references, in which case I don't mind trying to improve an answer by trying to provide references myself, or a systematic lack, in which case I might just as well go read Wikipedia directly instead.
    – Rinzwind
    Commented Jun 1, 2012 at 23:54
  • This is something that can become a social habit. Start doing it, and others will pick it up too, if they think it's a valuable practice.
    – Bryce
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 18:39

We could add badges for an answer that is upvoted to a certain level AND contains X amount of sources. This might encourage people to game the system, but it is one way to incentivize sourcing.

  • How would the system know the difference between any link and a source? You could put in fifteen nonsensical links and get the badge. If you the answer has to have enough up-votes to get the badge, well there's your reward right there-- a stack of up-votes!
    – Luke_0
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 14:47
  • @Luke excellent point, however, if you have a bunch of upvotes presumably people would have checked your sources and given you an upvote because they thought you had done good research.
    – ihtkwot
    Commented Jun 15, 2012 at 15:12

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