As discussed in this question, most users agree with rule of backing up answers with sources. Now comes the question, what is the official procedure for deleting answers that don't cite sources?

Two possible cases arise.

  1. Answers by new and active users (including answers by all unregistered users) that don't cite sources.
  2. Old answers (from 2014, before the 'cite sources' or the Back It Up! rule went into effect) that don't cite sources.

For the first case, we can give some time, say one week (seven days) for active users and a fortnight (15 days) for new users. If users are not able to provide references, knowledgeable active users can help them by providing references or sources to new users or other users in comment sections or by inviting them to chat rooms such as Hinduism and Vedanta and Philosophy.

Knowledgeable active users can also edit answers of unregistered users with references or sources, if possible. I think it will be best if we provide references to old answers of unregistered users, as far as possible and in case if it's not possible (like this answer which claims Ancient India used Shiva Lingas to hide Atomic bombs, for which genuine sources can't be fetched), we can delete those answers if they are too long or convert them to comments if they have useful content.

The second case is a bit complex and we can discuss that in the other question: Let's delete all old answers from early days of the site that lack any references at all.

Any suggestions and improvements are welcome.

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    I think we should convert it to community wiki on the spot because if the user have had references then he should've quoted them.
    – Yogi
    Mar 8, 2017 at 12:01
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    I really like what you are doing here - picking up a sore issue, soliciting community input and trying to systematise the action to be expected. Great going :-)
    – user1195
    Mar 8, 2017 at 15:38
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    Atlast!! we are going somewhere.. Thanks!!
    – Mr_Green
    May 9, 2017 at 7:19
  • @Pandya Why is this an FAQ? Is this post an announcement or asking for opinions? "As discussed in this question, most users agree with rule of backing up answers with sources" - why isn't the other question (Can we revisit the sources required rule?) an FAQ also? Jan 16, 2019 at 22:10
  • What is the definition of source? Is it a block quote? or a chapter number or what? Jun 26, 2019 at 7:12
  • @Sarvabhouma Anything.
    – The Destroyer Mod
    Jun 26, 2019 at 7:16
  • Then they are reverted and mods are enforcing only quotes. You know better.Even though the answer has a reference, a comment is posted "Cite your souces" Jun 26, 2019 at 7:17
  • Ahh.. Nope. Don't assume anything.
    – The Destroyer Mod
    Jun 26, 2019 at 7:19
  • This is not a joke. I am asking seriously. What exactly is a source, should it necessarily be a block quote or a verse number is enough or a an incident describing from the original is enough? What is it? I think it needs a separate discussion. We have come into an impression that source = block quotes from original scripture. That's why I'm asking. Jun 26, 2019 at 7:24
  • @Sarvabhouma Source can be anything, from just a reference, like page number in book or verse numbers to exact block quotes. There's no need even for online links. It is completely OP's wish.
    – The Destroyer Mod
    Jun 26, 2019 at 7:25

5 Answers 5


Update-1: Extended Time length and Exclusion Criterion
Update-2: Old unsourced answers are also subject to deletion now
Update-3: Time criteria is no longer a barrier and post-notice will be used in exceptional cases only

Yes, regarding new unsourced answers, the time span of a week for normal/regular users and a fortnight for new users is fine. I suggest to add "citation needed" post-notice before deletion so that users can get notified/warned. I encourage to improve answer (by adding sources) that are salvageable. Improved answers will be considered for undeletion upon flagging :)

Thus, according to the policy the following actions are supposed to be taken by community for new unsourced answer:

  1. If answer doesn't cite any sources or references, comment and/or citation notice will be added to the answer.
  2. If the answer remains unchanged within prescribed time span, it can be flagged for deletion and/or deleted or converted into comment by moderator.
  3. If the answer is improved by citing proper sources, then it can be flagged for undeletion.

We're going to finalize this policy. If you're agree with it, upvote this answer. If you've any other suggestion/feedback then provide it as an answer.

  • I downvoted the post a long ago (:P) because the time span given for adding sources is less. I suggest to increase the time span to 29 days. 29 because it is not hard to search for the answers within 30 days. Aug 22, 2017 at 9:10
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    You should discuss that when you downvoted.
    – Pandya Mod
    Aug 22, 2017 at 9:45
  • Can you advise the timeline you have in mind? How many days will voting on this be open? Mar 3, 2021 at 16:18

Firstly, I'd like to thank the entire moderator team for creating this post in order to encourage more participation from the community in our site, rather than taking the decisions in the backdoor moderation private rooms.

There are 3 ways in which we, as a community, can show our dissatisfaction with a post:

  1. Down vote
  2. Comment
  3. Delete

Moderators, on the other hand, can:

  1. add a notice to a particular post where in which they can mention that the post is not upto the mark.
  2. convert a post to a comment.

That said, we all need to remember that Moderators are human exception handlers.

I would like to propose a middle path between the two ends of whether to keep or not to keep a post:

When there is a new post without sources

  1. Let the community handle it:

    • The community downvotes the post and adds a comment
    • If the answerer remains stubborn and mentions that he does not want to add sources, then the community flags the post for moderator attention (assuming that the flag queue is quite low).
      • Once the post is flagged, the moderator can:
        • Add a post notice asking for improvements, if the answer is salvagable through edits by other community members. (and convert the post to community wiki after it is salvaged, if the effort needed to salvage the post is high)
        • Delete it, if it is unsalvagable.
    • If the answerer mentions that they will be adding sources soon, then
      • a moderator will add a post notice asking for valid sources and references. The community needs to wait till the edit, and then remove the downvote.
      • if the user does not edit within 60 days, flag the post for moderator attention, asking for deletion. The 60 day period is the cut off for holding the reputation gained on the post.
  2. Let moderators chip in when an answer is very poorly worded:

    • If there is an un-cited answer that is both poorly worded and unsalvagable through edits, then a moderator deletes it then and there.
    • Convert the post to a comment if there is there is any merit in keeping the post on site. (There is a workaround to convert long posts to comments as well).

In the case of old posts

This again boils down to whether the answer is salvagable or not. Let us not go on a hunt to find out old answers that do not cite references. Instead, when we see such a post,

  1. Comment asking for sources and informing the user that the site now emphasizes on a "must cite" rule.
  2. If there is no reply, then flag the post asking for a moderator to lock it for historical purposes. (This is a bold proposal as, 1. we won't be able to vote on it 2. We won't be losing the answer).

Practical Examples

One of the use cases which Keshav mentions is:

Now one of the most important rules which I think ought to be enforced by moderation is the rule that answers should be backed up with sources. Why shouldn't this just be enforced by voting? Because suppose an answer says "Ganesha is the supreme god. In battle defeated Vishnu, Indra and other Gods. This is what my mother told me once." Such an answer may be heavily upvoted by Ganesha devotees, even though it cannot be verified by readers, unless they get the phone number of the user's Mom :-)

In this particular case it is to be noted that:

  1. If a particular post without any valid sources is getting a lot of upvotes, then it is clear case where there is vote manipulation going on. "heavily upvoted by Ganesha devotees" implies that the "Ganesha devotees" are forming a voting ring and voting the posts. This must be escalated to the community managers.

  2. We must also note that "Ganesha devotees" are not the only ones who visit that particular post. We, community, must understand that our individual downvotes do matter! This does provide a platform to inform the users that they need to vote more. Though the reputation, might not be reversed by downvotes, but the post score can be reduced. I would not like to seem like a rude user, but I'd certainly like to call it out loudly here:

    Dear community, please downvote the bad posts.

  3. Taking a philosophical approach, it is clear that the "Ganesha devotees" are doing an immoral act here, they should be voting on the authenticity of a post and not because the answer has praised their deity.

Even then: I'm for the deletion of that post, adding an answer like:

"Ganesha is the supreme god. In battle defeated Vishnu, Indra and other Gods. This is what my mother told me once"

is indeed equivalent to cruft and is just noise. It would be the best to remove those from the site immediately. However, if the answer does have a proper structure, like:

"Ganesha in battle defeated Indra and other gods by doing <explanation of an act>"

and does not cite sources, then let us not delete those immediately. Instead let us downvote and comment.

The question that arises now is, Where do we draw the line between a poorly structured answer and a good answer without citations? Here, I feel that we need to use our common sense. It is not rocket science to differentiate between a good answer and a bad one.

It all boils down to:

We need answers, not opinions

  • It's funny how you reference "Ganesha is the supreme god" under "Practical Examples" when it's talking about a hypothetical case to begin with :-) Let's make or break rules with some real examples, shall we? Such as this answer to 'How were the Trimurthi born?' which was heavily upvoted until a better answer was later added/accepted. Would you call it a "voting ring" by Vishnu devotees on this site? There was a comment under the answer asking to cite sources for the 'opinion' in the last line which was only recently addressed... Mar 21, 2017 at 18:48
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    ...and I'm still not sure if it's a valid reference. So on this site, it seems like different rules apply to mods and regular users. "It is not rocket science to differentiate between a good answer and a bad one." - I don't think so. Would you consider this (real) answer on Gravity a good one? FYI, OP doesn't stand by his answer or the sources he used. Should we flag it for deletion? What about this answer that claims Rama was a vegetarian? Another voting ring? :P Mar 21, 2017 at 19:00
  • @sv. The question asks only about citations, the first answer that you mentioned does refer to other books, so my answer does not hold there. If the answer is wrong, then downvote it. That answer has only 1 downvote till now (I don't understand why the users here are so restrictive towards downvoting posts). There should be no rules differentiating mods and other users. There is a moral code of conduct (which I think the mods here also follow) which is to not handle flags on our own posts. Mar 21, 2017 at 19:46
  • For the second post the first revision was dead bad and should have been downvoted (which has not happened). That is a perfect example where a moderator notice asking for improvements and then a pending deletion would have been a better choice (as stated in my answer). The third one does cite a valid source, but is a wrong translation, that should have been downvoted. Funnily, it had only 2 downvotes when I added mine. Mar 21, 2017 at 19:46
  • So all I am trying to say in my answer is: Downvote and handle the wrong posts, there is no need to involve moderators in situations which we can handle ourselves. (and yes, you did mis understand the point about voting-rings). Mar 21, 2017 at 19:46
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    "there is no need to involve moderators in situations which we can handle ourselves" - Agree. Theory of Moderation also says 'The ideal moderator does as little as possible'. But as this and this posts prove, mods in the past have gotten involved when there was no need and have indiscriminately deleted posts. And we have had mods backing each other instead of doing the right thing... Mar 21, 2017 at 20:57
  • Re: voting ring, my point being, the examples I cited above only prove how collectively the voting can fail sometimes. Voting ring or not, moderators should stay out of it, because then every highly upvoted answer needs a second look including some of mods' own answers... Mar 21, 2017 at 21:19
  • ...As I've explained here, an answer claiming "Ganesha is the supreme god" by citing a particular blog is still valid for the site. Let's not tag them as "doing an immoral act" as one can easily make a similar claim against Vishnu devotees for blindly upvoting Vishnu-centric answers. Mar 21, 2017 at 21:19
  • @sv., The second link that you showed was certainly a mistake on the part of the moderator. The first one, I'm not so sure. According to the screen shots, it shows that the moderator deleted the post around 2~3 days after the comment. This, IMO, is wrong. We should provide the OP with more time to correct the answer. That is why I have clearly mentioned in my post that we need to add a post notice and provide the OP with some time. (Thanks for providing links which help me back up my answer). Hopefully with the new mods, I think we can expect a change in the moderation style. Mar 22, 2017 at 8:25
  • The collective voting part, yes, it is true that we all have failed as a community to downvote answers more often. Be it a mods answer or not a mods answer, we should downvote if the answer is wrong. (Jeff Atwood, the founder of SE, did post a NAA which was rightly flagged and deleted). But here, we are neither downvoting nor commenting. All what we are doing is, debating on meta as to why the post is not removed, don't you feel that we all need to vote often? But true, moderators should stay out of the actions which we as a community can do. Mar 22, 2017 at 8:25
  • And for your last point, I 100% agree with your comment. Infact, my second point here echoes the first part of your comment there. But I disagree with the second part of your comment here, Be it Ganesha devotees or Vishnu devotees, any one who votes up an answer, just because the answer praises their deity, is doing an immoral act. They should be voting an answer based on the actual content. Mar 22, 2017 at 8:25
  • "don't you feel that we all need to vote often?" - Absolutely! See my post here. But this being a religion site, voting works very differently here. E.g., a Vishnu devotee might not downvote an answer which proves Vishnu is supreme using mistranslations and incorrect references. They even feel obligated to downvote other answers such as this one that says all Gods are one! Mar 22, 2017 at 18:07
  • This site is way off from how SO works in general :) So even more important that mods here don't use personal tastes (of Gods) in decision making! Mar 22, 2017 at 18:09
  • @sv. Exactly! That attitude needs to change if we want to make the site a resource where all people can learn about Hinduism. If a Vishnu devotee is rational in his thinking, he should not feel obligated to downvote accurate answers. Same can be said about a Shiva devotee or a Ganesh devotee. If we all upvote those answers that simply proclaim that our main deity is the most supreme, then there won't be any difference between us, as a Q&A community, and other numerous opinion based blogs and forums. We must educate the masses to vote accurately based on content and not on opinion. Mar 22, 2017 at 19:57
  • I don't understand the need of co-relating this site with Stack Overflow (perhaps you felt that I'm a moderator there and have written my answer based on the experience there, but fortunately, I have written the answer only based on this site). For the last part of your comment, my whole answer echoes the fact that we shouldn't be letting moderators do stuff. It is we as a community which needs to be doing these. Moderators are exception handlers only. Mar 22, 2017 at 19:57

Old or new, for answers that don't cite any sources, we need a very simple rule going forward. Either delete them all or keep them all. It is very time consuming and also unfair for new users to follow the strict standards of citing sources especially when several answers with 20-30 upvotes but no references are still lying around from 2014 and early 2015. What would you tell a new user who points to an old answer such as this and then asks, "Although lacking sources, my answer is much better than that, why is their post still up but mine is taken down?"

That is the whole reason why I proposed this (to keep things simple): Let's delete all old answers from early days of the site that lack any references at all

For the first case, we can give some time, say one week (seven days) for active users and a fortnight (15 days) for new users. If users are not able to provide references...

I don't understand what is being proposed in the above. If references are NOT provided, the post needs to be deleted or converted to a comment first. Maybe a citation banner makes sense for new users. But after a month it can be deleted or converted to a comment. I suggest mods track such answers and revisit them after a month to delete them.

Knowledgeable active users can also edit answers of unregistered users with references or sources...

Assuming you are referring to what should happen to an answer post-deletion or after adding a citation banner, as I stated in this post, there is absolutely no incentive to high-rep users to go edit others' answers and update them with proper references. Why not just write new answers altogether? Even after you edit the post, what's the guarantee an unregistered user will register and stick with the site? We have to remember this is a Q&A site first where several users write competing answers. This is not Wikipedia where every post is a work in progress by several users. So I think edits should be limited to strictly correcting grammar or adding 1 or 2 minor obvious references that are missing.

like this answer which claims Ancient India used Shiva Lingas to hide Atomic bombs, for which genuine sources can't be fetched

It's over a month and the user has not returned to update his answer, so it needs to be deleted and converted to comment. But again, to be fair to that new user, posts such as this one need a citation banner as well and later taken down if they're not updated with proper sources.


"Any suggestions and improvements are welcome."[1]

Actually this has been discussed before few times.
The answers without sources should NOT be deleted. If the site wants to grow in a true "Hinduism" way, then allow all kind of philosophical thinking. If the "scriptures" thing is hard pressed, then we may end up becoming an incestuous[2] community where people just pat (upvote) each others.

At the same time, to keep a good check on authenticity of given philosophy[3], use the quality banners for unsourced answers, as suggested in this post. Mods have lot of choices among banners as described in this post.
Why to go behind deleting answers & create disharmony among users?

"If users are not able to provide references, knowledgeable active users can help them by providing references or sources to new users or other users in comment sections ... Knowledgeable active users can also edit answers of unregistered users with references or sources ..."

This has been discussed before as impractical or next to impossible.

[1] Was pinged by of the Mods recently & hence visited here after a while. Nice to see that the Mods are taking the consent of community.

[2] No offense in "incest" word is intended. It doesn't only mean "sex among close blood relations". In this context, it indeed means: "not being heterogeneous/diverse enough to function properly" Plz see "adjectives" in http://www.dictionary.com/browse/incestuous.

[3] None of my existing answer is without source, yet I think we should allow others to express without scriptures. If we think recursively, then surely there would be a time when there were no scriptures. Also, just because something was written in Sanskrit doesn't prove it's authenticity. What if they were written in 19th or early 20th century?

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    Regarding sources, it was discussed here. You can see arguments of both sides in answers of that question.
    – The Destroyer Mod
    Mar 9, 2017 at 12:37
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    Citing of sources is essential to maintain some quality standards for answers.
    – Pandya Mod
    Mar 9, 2017 at 12:53
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    @TheDestroyer, Pandya, I am not against citing sources or not notifying users to do it. This meta post is about deleting un-sourced answer. So I am just answering that specific part. Don't delete an answer, just because it's un-sourced. Have discretion.
    – iammilind
    Mar 9, 2017 at 13:02
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    @iammilind ohh. Thanks for clarifying. But Deletion is last option. There are many ways to salvage an answer. Deletion is done only in extreme cases. But i think we should delete blatantly unrelated answers at one time or other. This improves quality.
    – The Destroyer Mod
    Mar 9, 2017 at 13:09
  • Let's discuss in moderation room
    – Pandya Mod
    Mar 10, 2017 at 7:44
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    +1 "knowledgeable active users can help them by providing references" - agree, that is a "feel good" line but doesn't work :P I covered that point yet again in my answer here. Mar 14, 2017 at 0:14

While I agree with the answer above, I would like to add a point about answers from own experiences.

Some answers about religious practices will stand good even without a external reference. For example consider my answer here, where my main point is my personal experiences. Such personal experiences can hold good for questions regarding practices and beliefs.

  • 1
    Personal Experience can't be considered as a source visit this for explanation.
    – Pandya Mod
    Apr 22, 2017 at 6:15

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