History is a field where there's a lot of commonly held misconceptions and water-cooler anecdotal information/analysis. As participants in this site, we need to be sure to carefully source our answers and attempt to follow some basic historical methodology. I see this on some answers, but then again I see other answers where people make assertions and don't properly back any of them up. Since I almost always wasn't there in the time/place the answerer is talking about, I have no basis to know whether or not what they say is true. I am therefore skeptical of all History and want to see the proof behind someone's answer. As someone with a degree in History, I have a harder time seeing professional History experts taking the site seriously unless we can provide decent backing to assuage reader's skepticism.
So I envision a good History SE answer to be very similar to a good Skeptics SE answer. To summarize their points
- It must actually answer the question.
- It must be factual, not based in speculation.
- Every answer must have one or more references.
- Its references must support the argument, and should be verifiable.
- It must be written in a polite and neutral tone.
- It must be written in an accessible vocabulary.
I would however be less strict on the "no original research" as I think its a great idea to include some analysis of primary source material in History.SE questions.
How we provide references should be a little specific to History SE based on commonly accepted historical methodology. To back up our answers, I think we should encourage the use of (1) relevant primary source material (quotes from participants, archeological findings, etc) and (2) Works by historians who are experts in fields related to the answer. We should discourage citing Wikipedia and other tertiary sources. Wikipedia may be useful when writing an answer to get at good historical works through their citations, or it may be ok to link in some tangential information, but we should discourage the citation of Wikipedia to directly backup claims. Claims should be backed up with concrete stuff that happened in the past that you can point to, not a Wikipedia page.
I've seen some answers that are great, weigh different pieces of evidence from important sources. I've unfortunately seen other answers that are lacking, contain a simple link to a Wikipedia page, or a blatant statement of fact not backed up by anything other than maybe what Wikipedia said.
I'm not bashing on Wikipedia, I just want to know more. What sources are being relied upon for the information in Wikipedia? What biases/problems might those sources have? Are there confirming sources? What do the experts say? Whats their basis for thinking that?