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Most of the answers (and questions) on Stack Exchange websites do not cite external resources or references (papers, official websites regarding a specific topic, Wikipedia, etc.), like for example Wikipedia articles.

The contents of an answer are usually the result of the knowledge of the author of the same answer (and the reviewers). This makes these answers not always reliable, even though the votes this answer may or not have received may help in understanding if those contents are actually reliable. In reality, these votes tell us more about the number of people that share or not the ideas on those answers, the number of people that find or not those answers useful, etc. So, the voting system is clearly useful, but highly depends on opinions.

My suggestion is to add an explicit system to cite external resources/references while writing answers and questions, similar to Wikipedia's one.

Let's take this answer as an example where this explicit system to cite external resources/references would be useful.

The author says

No; you don't cast the result, since:

  • It is unnecessary, as void* is automatically and safely promoted to any other pointer type in this case.

This statement could cite, for example, the C standard, where that's explicitly stated (if there's such a place). This would clearly make this answer more reliable.

Overall, this citation system would make Stack Exchange websites even more reliable, which, in my opinion, would be an improvement. The citations do not have to be enforced, but they could eventually be required (by any user), in a similar way that this is usually done on Wikipedia. Eventually, this idea could be extended: a template system could be created; other types of templates could be introduced.

Why or not would this be a good idea? How difficult would it be to implement this?

One problem of introducing this system would be how to deal with all existing answers and questions whose contents are currently evaluated only based on the votes.

  • There's already a way to add sources to a post (e.g. by linking or adding a reference to a book), if needed (it's not always). And there's already a way for moderators to add a banner to answers that need sources (look at these answers for example), which is only really used on some sites. What exactly are you proposing? – Laurel Sep 11 '17 at 15:38
  • @Laurel I'm proposing a more sophisticated system to cite a resource or reference (I'm saying this in my post above), not just links, which are very general. – nbro Sep 11 '17 at 15:56
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    Can you specify what your "more sophisticated system" would be? I need something more specific than "similar to Wikipedia" because I'm not familiar with the internals of Wikipedia. – Laurel Sep 11 '17 at 16:05
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It's worth remembering not all sites are technical, and very often the person posting the answer is the primary source or at the very least has synthesised the answer from multiple sources.

In a few cases - my question literally has answers that are the primary source, and in other cases, I've posted an answer from memory or common sense.

To me, the current system of linking is "good enough" and footnotes (Wikipedia style) on an answer might be clutter, especially where a good answer ought to stand on its own merits. It's simply a different format.

I also think this might be even less useful on say, pets, where many answers are based on personal experience.

I don't think this should be mandatory if it was implemented, for the reasons above.

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