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You might be knowing that there is a policy on our site to add citations in answers. There is a list of valid references which are also added in the . When there are no valid sources in an answer, Moderators tend to put a post notice which means a valid reference is missing in the answer. Our site uses Citation needed notice than other notices. The text used in the notice is following:

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

This notice is used more frequently on our site. Moderators put it either by their discretion or when they see a flag requesting it.

This is where I see a problem. There are more than 419 answers with some sort of notice. Out of which major share is of citation needed banner.

Users get notified when a notice is put on their answer. If a comment is also left along with a notice, that would be fine. But in many cases, there is just a banner without explaining what is wrong in the answer, which part needs improving the answer and why a banner is put in the answer. Not a comment by the flagger or by a moderator.

If you say the notice says it all. See how it can be interpreted.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  1. Which part needs references What is some? How much is some? Which part is fine and which paragraph needs more references? I have come across many answers which provide some kind of valid source as listed in the above linked faq but there is still a banner (One of which is my answer. I had to ping a moderator in chat to know what is wrong in the answer and improved it later).

  2. When a user sees a banner, their focus changes to the first and last sentences which say more references are needed and saying "Unsourced information may be disputed or deleted" as it is a moderator who added. It is natural that a user thinks their answer might get deleted. That is not a good experience when there is no clarity.

  3. New user's perspective. Many new users visit the site and write answers with something what they know. Some may write good answers along with references whereas some give information directly. Some do not even know how to write answers in Markdown formatting. (Forget about new users, users with some reputation had problems in using it. I once noticed that a post notice was added in First Post reviews. When a notice is slapped on their answer, it is not helpful to them because they do not what is that and why it is put. Many do not even take the tour of the site or visit help center guidelines at the time of answering. So, expecting them to improve their answer just because a banner is placed is expecting next to impossible. We can't expect a new user to know site functionality on day one. Many have zero idea about the policies we follow here.

  4. Stack Exchange is now emphasizing on improvement of new user's experience network wide. Using more and more automated comments or automated mechanism without much of manual intervention will not help in improving the experience and in turn the improvement of the content.

    If the flagger and a moderator knows where the answer needs improvement, that is not enough. The user who posted the answer. Other users in the community should also know which part needs improvement so that they can help with improvement. As far as I know, there is no telepathy between the OP and moderators so that the users can know the thoughts of moderator or between the user who flagged for citation notice. A comment would be help the user.

These automated banners are never a substitute for manual comments. A comment is always given higher preference over these things. The faq on Meta Stack Exchange says following (bold emphasis mine):

Notifications are not intended to replace the normal channels, but to annotate exceptional situations. Therefore, it's unlikely that a post will actually need an annotation. Comments, votes, edits, and new answers may be better choices. However, if you do think a post needs to be annotated by a moderator, feel free to raise a flag.

That is why a moderator posts a comment manually to let the user know their answer is deleted and why the answer is deleted. So, that the user will know the reason why it is deleted. It is better we approach a similar method for citation also.

I have heard from a moderator and a user that it is like a note of caution to the reader who is reading the answer. But the text reads a different definition from what is said. It says unsourced information will be deleted. The reader who might not know the mechanism will be mislead in this matter. I personally do not see the same interest from the in removing the citation banner after a post is updated with proper sources. If a banner is still in place after notifying a moderator or improving the answer, the readers will be mislead.

If we are just adding a notice for the sake of adding and not letting the OP why and where the answer is lacking proper sources, it is highly unlikely the answer will be improved. If you are a user, your helpful flag count may increase but the answer might remain the same. Every step we take should be for improvement only and not for name sake. The OP should know and he may back up with sources to support his claims. If a moderator or another user adds it based on their assumptions, that might not match the intent of the OP. We might add a different faith, philosophical text or different translation other than the OP follows. Editing information which conflicts with OP's intent is not OK. It's like putting our words in OP's mouth.

TL;DR : If you are flagging an answer for moderator intervention for a post notice, take some more time to let the user know that their answer needs some more references for improvement to match the site's standards. It is not enough the flagger and moderator knows which part needs more improvement. The user who wrote the answer should also know so that the answer can be improved.

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  • "If you are flagging an answer for moderator intervention for a post notice, take some more time to let the user know that their answer needs some more references for improvement to match the site's standards" - for new users this makes sense but for old users who already know the rules and still make unsourced claims, this will lead to arguments and they don't really care so flagging saves time for everyone. – sv. Jan 8 '19 at 19:37
  • @sv. So, you also learnt telepathy after participating very good time on the site? That is good to know. But there are some normal people like me who do not know why a citation banner is put on my answer. According to SE definition, I am an old user but I can't know why a banner is put or which part needs references. A mod will know why a citation banner is there, so does the flagger. What about the answerer? – Sarvabhouma Jan 9 '19 at 2:36
  • Sometimes I leave comments explaining where sources are lacking, but check this. No response from OP, what do you do? Go on leaving comments? As for mods who add the notice, I think they are obligated to leave some kind of comment. – sv. Jan 10 '19 at 0:02
  • What I am saying is not to run to the headmaster every time. I think we are matured enough to deal in lower level as much as possible. Flagging for each and every single time is not needed. They are to be used for serious matters only. If an answerer and other users in community will know where an answer is lacking sources, then they can try to improve. Frankly speaking, what happened to the answer even after a notice? What did a notice do except an extra flag to the user? Mods will also gain activity without actually doing anything except putting banner. Put a banner, ignore it. – Sarvabhouma Jan 10 '19 at 1:55
  • 'Put a banner, ignore it.' - this is where I disagree with you. Banner serves two purposes: 1) It's a warning to readers that some of the information is unsourced. So take it with a grain of salt. That reputation of the user should not be taken as an authority. 2) It's also a notice to OP to improve their answer. If user takes action on the notice and fixes the problem (e.g., see this edit where the user took some action on my flag) then it's good for the site. If not, it's better to have some kind of warning. – sv. Jan 10 '19 at 2:41
  • Users don't know if it's flagged or put directly by a mod. You are showing a mod's answer. So he knew why it needed a citation. What about users like me? How do I know which part is missing? Notice is not for putting a warning that an answer should be taken as grain of salt. The banner serves different purpose. It means some part needs references. It needs more sources. Otherwise it may be deleted. If there's no communication between user and flagger, there is no scope of improvement. I would also try to improve if there is a comment where my answer is missing sources, that too without a flag. – Sarvabhouma Jan 10 '19 at 3:52
  • 'If there's no communication between user and flagger' - I think mods are obligated to leave some kind of comment. More recently I'm seeing mods here post comments along with citation banners. So where's the problem? I can't help it if you absolutely hate banners. It seems banners were introduced with this post which says: "This would help the questions and answer to get proper attention and editing love they deserve." So a banner is meant for both OP and others to do something about it. – sv. Jan 10 '19 at 4:32
  • Users who flag can also comment. Why not? They are not leaving comments. That is my problem. They are sometimes putting those banners directly in First post reviews without any comment. Recently I had to have a long struggle to know why one of my posts have a banner. The answer was I am an active user and I am supposed to know why there's a banner without having a comment. That is what caused me to ask this question. Repetition of comments would not be a problem because different answers have different claims. So, adding something like "So and so paragraph needs more references, edit them" – Sarvabhouma Jan 10 '19 at 4:38
  • I don't like banners because they are higher level work. Addition or removal needs mod intervention. Whereas a comment is not like that. We can self delete if the post is edited properly. If there's a comment explaining which laims should be backed up, then other users can also add sources into answer like I did a few times. If there is no such comment, people like me can't improve or flag for removal. The answer posted below misses the point. Mod says to flag for mod attention when users have no idea if the sources are enough for removal or not. Only mods know if the sources are okay. – Sarvabhouma Jan 10 '19 at 4:42
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We should guide new users by referring them to appropriate help center links (and FAQs if required).

  • If a user doesn't know answering question and his/her answer looks like discussion or comment i.e qualify as "Not An Answer" then we should refer him/her to tour page and how-to-answer page.

  • If a user has not cited any source or answer looks like opinion only, we should comment asking to cite some valid sources and refer him/her to guidelines and probably the policy.

CASE-I (no source/reference is cited at all)

Mostly the "Citation needed" post-notice has been added when answer doesn't cite any source. So, in most case where answer doesn't cite any source at all, there is no such an issue like which part needs to be improved or requires citations since the answer is missing source at all.

When I add "Citation Needed" post-notice, I usually add comment something like "Welcome to Hinduism Stack Exchange! You should cite some sources. Visit help center for more information"

I think the more appropriate comment would be:

Welcome to Hinduism Stack Exchange! In order to maintain quality, we insist on citing some sources. You should cite some sources to back up your answer. Visit [help] for more information.

Note that [help] expands to the help center where we've added link to useful meta FAQs: guidelines, policy and back it up so-that new users get sufficient guidance.

Miscellaneous things:
(1) Though there would be lesser chances, If it's the case of an experienced active user (having good reputation) when no source/reference is cited in the answer then we may not need to add comment since s/he would be aware of the post-notice very well. (2) If a new user posted several unsourced answers then adding comment on couple of posts would serve the purpose i.e no need to add comment to the every post of same user. (3) If there is an already existing comment by users (other than mods), then mods would simply add post-notice without repeating the comment.

CASE-II: (Invalid source)

Generally it has been observed that new users tend to cite some random blogs or links to youtube videos. In that case, we need to guide them about what kind of references are valid or what sources are considered valid.

Welcome to Hinduism Stack Exchange! Blogs are not considered valid source here. You should cite some valid sources (preferably scriptures) in the answers.

CASE-III: (Needs more reference)

Talking about part of answer cite sources and part of it needs improvement:

Q. Which part needs references What is some? How much is some? Which part is fine and which paragraph needs more references?

(In funny tone) On this site, yes, it's true that you can't speak if you don't have any reference i.e source or reference is a ticket/pass to answer a question. However it's not so strictly like you can't utter a single word without reference! or you need to cite source for every points you write in the question. Based upon a source, you can elaborate and interpret things in your words.

Though this is bit subjective but in my opinion you should cite source whenever you make any claim. In other words, you should cite source for every claim you make in the answer.

So, sometimes even answer cite sources but one or more (strong) claim is missing source, it needs improvement and the post-notice can be added. In this case, a comment (clarifying which part needs more references) becomes essential. Hence, it's strongly recommended to add comment in such a case.


Q. I personally do not see the same interest from the in removing the citation banner after a post is updated with proper sources. If a banner is still in place after notifying a moderator or improving the answer, the readers will be mislead.

Ah! we, the moderators don't get notified upon the modification of an answer which is annotated with post-notice and I agree we might miss removing post-notice if answer is improved. More or less . So, you're requested to flag (accordingly) asking to remove post-notice after you revise your or others' answers adding appropriate sources. Or when/if you find an answer still having the notice after improvement (you can know the time-stamps notice added from the history of revisions) please let us know or inform us by flagging.

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  • Some of the information contained in this post misses clarity and repeats the same problem addressed in the question and proposes the same solution which is considered a problem. It also gives own definition of Not an answer against SE guidelines. -1. – Sarvabhouma Dec 28 '18 at 16:21

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