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Answer with a link only is bad, but if it's copy-pasted from that link, should it be deleted? I think its value isn't lost and it should be kept.

The question What to do when plagiarism is discovered focuses on plagiarism, which is the lack of attribution to the original author. This question is just about copy-pasted answers, which are properly attributed. The benefits of which are saving time for the writers, but still creating a back up in case the link is dead.


Case in point: What field examine the relationship between language and insight? and its deleted answer screenshot
Relevant: Why are quote-only answers not helpful?

  • Perhaps that I would accept your argument if there was no reputation involved. But I fail to understand how can you accept that someone gains reputation simply because they posted a copy-and-paste answer. – José Carlos Santos Oct 8 '18 at 10:32
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    The title is incomplete, it should read **Should properly attributed copy-pasted answers be deleted? Why are the examples so tiny? It should be the entire focus of the question. I haven't yet read the question and answer in the links though. – Mari-Lou A Oct 8 '18 at 11:32
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    Is any of that answer written in your own words? It "looks" like it is, but without checking the source I cannot be sure. If everything is lifted from the source, then I can see why it was deleted. You should have just posted a link in the comments telling the OP they might be interested by it. Ahh, but you are the OP and the same user who posted an answer. – Mari-Lou A Oct 8 '18 at 11:37
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    reading more closely, the answer seems to have been written by a native speaker, so it looks like a pure copy-pasted answer, which might be acceptable if you had formatted it correctly. You didn't. It appears you're only quoting snippets, those bits where you used block quotes. Not very ethical I'm afraid, and especially on a site dedicated to science. – Mari-Lou A Oct 8 '18 at 11:40
  • @JoséCarlosSantos I agree that the feeling of seeing the answers we put effort on being upvoted is so great, so it's understandable for hating others gain free votes. But in this question I don't concentrate on that – Ooker Oct 8 '18 at 11:52
  • @Mari-LouA I didn't put it in block quote because I already explained at the top that this was copy-pasted. At that point, using the block quote was unnecessary and only impeded the reading flow I think. (Btw, I am rewriting the question completely, this time provides more knowledge on cognitive psychology.) – Ooker Oct 8 '18 at 13:30
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    No. Using block quotes shows that the entire piece is being quoted, not just a few lines here and there. I have quoted extensively from different sources and I have always used block quotes to show unequivocally that the words written were not my own. Saying it would break the flow is just an excuse. How does using block quotes, on EL&U the text appears in a pink box, prevent someone reading it? – Mari-Lou A Oct 8 '18 at 13:34
  • @Mari-LouA is it an excuse? No, actually I pay a lot of attention on reading flow and typography. See my article about making big picture to understand my point more. – Ooker Oct 8 '18 at 15:14
  • Does it actually work? I don't know, because I don't have a strong background on typography. My thinking is that it is necessary to use block quote with contrast background to avoid having to say "to quote" redundantly. But if the readers are noted at the beginning that the rest of the answer is just quote, then I think using the block is redundant in this special case. – Ooker Oct 8 '18 at 15:14
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Yes. They should be deleted.

There are many reasons why copy paste answers are not useful. Some of them are:

  1. Lack of effort.

    These answers do not show any effort. If the answers are just a copy paste from an external source, what is the need of our answer? Why should a reader read your answer? Providing a link to the original would be enough. If you say finding a detailed article is also effort, then people good at google foo can write good answers in <put site name>. But we want users who know that topic and can write questions and answers in that topic in detail.

  2. That doesn't help the reader

    Your answer should clarify doubts of the reader. One of the reasons for deletion of low quality answers is something like "Write answers which do not require further clarification from the OP". But here on SE, the deal is not only between the OP and you, the community should also understand the answers. More importantly, the readers of the content should understand the answer. A copy paste answer would not help the reader as there is nothing except a giant block quote.

  3. We want your answer

    People ask questions here because they want your answer. If you are just copy pasting from external source (even though it is properly attributed), it is someone else's answer. You are reproducing here.

  4. Always explain the answer even when you are quoting.

    Pure copy paste answers would just clog up search results. Shog9, a community manager, wrote the following about posting original content:

    And worse yet, an awful lot of them are answered that way: by quoting external sources. A site that just regurgitates things that others have written isn't much good; answers like that just clog up search results without adding anything. It's important to cite your sources, but just as important to demonstrate knowledge of both the question being answered and the topic itself - this is where we can actually make the Internet a better place, demonstrating how to use this knowledge to answer specific questions.

    Even when you are citing a source, try to paraphrase it in your own words by using their ideas. Use some portion of quotes rather than everything.

  5. Explain the answers in simple terms

    One of the mottoes of Stack Exchange network sites is to build a library of detailed questions and answers. We should try to write answers like experts. An expert always tries to explain things in a simple manner. Some post questions because they don't understand complex terms used in the topic. If your answer uses the same, then that is not a good answer. Your own explanation is needed in the answer. At least some introduction or explanation of terms.

A copy paste answer, even if it's properly attributed, doesn't become a good answer.


If you say only plagiarism is discouraged and complete copy paste is ok, then there is something about referencing material written by others too. The help center article about referencing says

Do not copy the complete text of external sources; instead, use their words and ideas to support your own. And always give proper credit to the author and site where you found the text, including a direct link to it.

These are some of the reasons copy paste answers are discouraged and deleted. This topic has been discussed in many communities. Some have included it in their faq too.

If an answer is only a copy paste from external source, providing a link to it in the comment section is enough. I see that the moderator did the same. Don't worry. If you paraphrase the answer in your own words, you can flag the answer for undeletion.

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  • Its also worth remembering, if you can find the answer, you can always fix it to be paraphrased, then flag to reopen – Journeyman Geek Oct 8 '18 at 6:02
  • what do you think about creating a quick back up in case the link is dead? – Ooker Oct 8 '18 at 8:37
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    @Ooker I don't think that would be much useful. Complete copy paste answers will make a duplicate of what is already produced somewhere else. Site will be filled with duplicated content. That affects site quality.That would not help readers. See the portion I quoted and the link following it. – Nog Shine Oct 8 '18 at 8:47
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    I think if the OP had at least attempted to edit the piece, and quoted only the most relevant passages it would be acceptable. But the answer and the user asking the question are one and the same person. So... why not post the link in the actual question, quote sections from it and then build a much more informative question around that. (smh) – Mari-Lou A Oct 8 '18 at 11:45
  • @Mari-LouA I had almost finished the question and about to post, then suddenly realized that there was a keyword that I hadn't googled it. I did it, and boomed, the perfect answer was there. So I left with an almost finished question, and a perfect answer I was looking for. I decided to help other people by doing that. I don't think that this is a lack of effort – Ooker Oct 8 '18 at 12:21
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    @Ooker “…*I don't think that this is a lack of effort*…” Yes, it is, and copy-pasting answers is something that everyone has done. But you could have summarised the contents, or cited only the most pertinent and relevant sections or formatted the answer in such a way that it was clear the entire piece was being cited. You did neither one of these things... – Mari-Lou A Oct 8 '18 at 12:36
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    Another reason copy-paste answers should be deleted is that they discourage people from writing answers that might be higher quality. Many people are reluctant to write answers similar to existing answers, so not only is the copy-paste answer not a good answer, it suppresses better answers. – ColleenV Oct 8 '18 at 16:43
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I just wanted to post an counter argument from Franck Dernoncourt's answer on Money Stack Exchange dated Aug. 3 2020. Please don't shoot the messenger. Yes...I note the irony in pasting his answer here.

One should be able to reference sites, then copy and paste to answer questions. There is no point in paraphrasing a referenced quote if it answers the question.

As GS - Apologise to Monica♦ says, the Help Center mentions:

Do not copy the complete text of external sources; instead, use their words and ideas to support your own.

Two remarks:

  1. The quote only mentions the case where one copies the "complete text of external sources".
  2. "instead, use their words and ideas to support your own." makes no sense when the question is looking for some objective answer, which is often the case on https://money.stackexchange.com/: the answerer typically doesn't have any "own" words or ideas, they're is reporting some objective answer. Also that sounds like some homework instructions for primary school.
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  • The same case could be made for sites resolving around religion. You don't want to paraphrase a certain verse from a (holy) book, you want the exact words to be in your answer. – Luuklag Aug 24 at 11:37
  • Relevant: meta.stackexchange.com/q/347796/260800 – Ooker Aug 24 at 12:43

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