How should we as a site treat answers which are simply copy-pasted from another source, (whether with or without attribution)? Particularly those which show little understanding of the topic on the part of the poster.

I won't name anyone, but I've seen an answer where the user apparently simply copy-pasted the first paragraph of the first relevant google result, which didn't even really answer the original question. Afterwards, they admitted to know nothing about the topic themselves.

To me, this seems wrong. What is the general stance on this sort of answers?

(To the person in question, if they recognize themselves: Sorry about this, but I think this sort of thing needs to be discussed.)

  • $\begingroup$ They should use quote, if they forgot, suggest an edit. Then post a link to the source. $\endgroup$
    – kenorb
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 9:27
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @kenorb I don't think this is a text-formatting issue... or something fixed by dropping in a bit of attribution. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I see I'm the cause of a lot of issues on meta, and I'm sorry. Feel free to remove me from beta if you wish. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 15:21

3 Answers 3


Post consists almost entirely of content copied from elsewhere should NOT be considered a useful 'answer' in the context of this site.

Copying answers from external sources without permission is not allowed (and quoting or linking back to that site does not make that okay). Even posting an answer copied almost entirely from reusable content should be frowned upon, or even flagged to be removed.

This site was created to add something unique (and better) to the Internet. If we're simply copying stuff that's already out there, why bother? We're just adding another barrier between the folks searching for this stuff and the original source of the content.

Answers should create something original and useful for this community specifically. That is why we bring together individual communities of experts to host these topics.

And vetting is a big part of this site. Your best content should be rising to the top. Please stop up-voting these posts!

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for the last sentence. I'm not really a fan of "vote early, vote often" exactly because it's too frequently interpreted as encouragement to upvote anything. $\endgroup$
    – Ben N
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 16:32
  • $\begingroup$ @BenN I believe that a hard-to-find quote that answers a question is worth upvoting. Also, depending on the source, might give increased credibility. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ @FranckDernoncourt Indeed, trusted supporting evidence is excellent. Correctly-cited excerpts are great for that purpose. Copying answers wholesale is what's being discouraged here. $\endgroup$
    – Ben N
    Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @BenN I agree that copying answers that do not appropriately address the question is to be discouraged. But I think Robert was discouraging any copy pasted answer "Post consists almost entirely of content copied from elsewhere should NOT be considered a useful 'answer' in the context of this site." $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 16:28
  • $\begingroup$ @FranckDernoncourt I just don't see the value in turning every simple piece of sage advice into a mile-long treatise just to cover the 1-in-1000 exception. That's why everything in this system has become so flippin' complicated. 50,000 landmines behind the simplest action... adding little actual value at all. Is it just me? </pet peeve> $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertCartaino I simply think we should clearly distinguish bad answers from copy pasted answers. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2016 at 22:51

Plagiarism is unethical, IMHO: if you're providing a link to a source, it's more than enough. But if you want to provide a cite, then it must be referenced and marked up in appropriate manner

  • $\begingroup$ Links can die, it's better to copy if the license allows it. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 10, 2016 at 23:52

As long as it does answer the question, clearly indicates it is a quote, doesn't infringe licenses, and gives proper attribution, it is fine.

(Why reinventing the wheel?)


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