Why we must insist on sources:
Let me first introduce that we (StackExchange) are different from other sites on internet like forum. It is also introduced at tour page. Also, we (Hinduism.SE) is quite different than other sites on StackExchange network as this is about Dharma not about science & technology.
☞ We know very well that reading scriptures is very important to learn about Hinduism. You also mark that most of wise and learned men give references of important scriptures while talking or preaching related to Dharma. The answers from one is verily depends on his/her knowledge about Hinduism which can be effectively and efficiently gained from scripture only.
According to Purva Mimansa Sutra,
अथातो धर्मजिज्ञासा १
Next therefore ( comes ) the enquiry into Dharma.
चोदनालक्षणोऽर्थो धर्मः २
Dharma is that which is indicated by (known by means of)
the Veda as conducive to the highest good.
तस्य निमित्तपरीष्टिः ३
The examination of its means [follows].
सत्सम्प्रयोगे पुरुषस्येन्द्रियाणां बुद्धिजन्म तत्प्रत्यक्षमनिमित्तं विद्य-
That cognition by a person which appears when there is contact of the sense-organs is 'sense-perception', and it is not a means (of knowing dharma), as it apprehends only things existing at the present time.
औत्पत्तिकस्तु शब्दस्यार्थेन सम्बन्धस्तस्य ज्ञान-
मुपदेशोऽव्यतिरेकश्चार्थेऽनुपलब्धे तत्प्रमाणं बादरायणस्यानपेक्षत्वात् ५
The relation of the word with its denotation is inborn.
Instruction is the means of knowing it (Dharma),
infallible regarding all that is imperceptible ; it
is a valid means of knowledge, as it is independent, according to Badarayana.
According to Uttar Mimansa Sutra:
शास्त्रयोनित्वात् ॥ १.१.३॥
3. (Brahman is omniscient) because of (Its) being the source of the scriptures. (Or) (Brahman is not known from any other source), since the scriptures are the valid means of Its knowledge.
Now, reliability of Hinduism.SE directly depends upon the quality of answers. So, we must insist on reliable and authoritative sources and references. That's why we need answers that should be backed up with sources since ultimately we can rely on Hindu Scriptures only.
Citing Sources in answer:
Now, let me talk about couple of cases regarding to citing sources in answers:
"Citing scriptural sources is always recommended and encouraged"; specially when the question deals with philosophy and/or scriptures then we must include scriptural source in answer. How scriptural source is helpful is explained by The Destoryer.
As pointed out by Keshav, not all answers may require scriptural source. Also some questions can't be answered by scriptural source. In that case we should cite/include some scholarly source like works of Acharyas, Philosopher, Guru, Swami etc. E.g we know that the quotes from the speeches of Swami Vivkananda are very useful and reliable in many cases.
Talking about "Personal Experience, Though, Back it up! principle allows personal experience, every community can have it's own policy and rules regarding this. Personal experience can't be considered as a source.
If one says "I've experience regarding Hinduism", then it would only be reliable if it is becked up with scriptures or sources, otherwise it will look like opinion only. Those who have true experience of Hindu practices, beliefs etc should have the knowledge of scriptures and it will be easy to cite sources for them. So, ultimately authentic and reliable sources are those on which we should rely on.
Hence, deciding/determining some quality standards can help in maintaining quality of answers.
If you don't have reference to cite at present:
Now talking about the following text from Guideline:
If no such text references are present, then users can provide answers which they have learned or heard about the culture from parents and others. (If their answers are authentic then other users might be able to provide references to their source scripture.)
Yes, If you think you can answer the question and don't have any reference to cite at present, you can answer the question but start finding source (knowledgeable users can also help you in citing references) and include it in answer to back up your answer with authoritative source.
But keep in mind (quoting from mentioned guideline):
However, because not all of us might have read the vast number of scriptures that we have in our religion, it can be difficult to provide such reference. In that case, users should only provide answers that they are completely sure about. Mere opinions and personal thoughts should be discouraged to maintain the quality and correctness of the information being made available. Information about a religion or culture is a serious thing and can affect people’s thinking, life and outlook. So users should take care to provide only correct information as much as possible instead of posting personal opinions. Also, to keep his karmic account clean he should cite the original author or scripture instead of plagiarizing.
What to do with answers that don't cite any sources:
Now the point is "What to do with answers which don't cite any sources?"
First of all the general guideline would be :
- Upvote the useful answer the is backed up with sources.
- If your question get useful similar answers answering your question then consider to accept the answer that is correctly backed up with sources.
This will rise the authentic answer to the top and visitors can benefit from it.
About deletion of answers that are not backed up with any sources:
If answer is not backed up with sources then users as well as moderator may leave comment to cite some sources. Moderator may also put the following notice:
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.
Then moderator may wait for few days before taking any action. Meanwhile the answerer can improve the answer by citing or including some sources.
- If the answer is very useful but lacking sources, then experienced user (or moderator at their discretion) can help to include sources.
- If the answer fails to cite/include some sources, then moderator may delete it.
- If the answerer or high-reputed/experienced user see the answer deserve to be improved by citing some sources, they can improve it and flag to undelete, moderators will be happy to undelete answers that are improved and backed up with sources.
Update: Refer to Official policy for deleting answers that don't cite sources.
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