First, since this is meta, I am keeping the question somewhat broad about the topics in question to be more applicable, while trying to keep the scope fairly narrow for the essence of the specific question.

I know that Stack Exchange specifically allows attribution to posts being considered as an allowed source, along with a process for creating the needed citations.

The scenario:

I was looking at a general Wikipedia page for a topic that falls within one Stack Exchange site's areas of knowledge. At the time there was an acronym that had a {citation required} tag and no in document reference to the meaning. In this particular case, I was able to come up with a likely candidate phrase for the term and was able to locate a verifiable resource that way.

My question is...

If I had not been able to locate a term, would it have been appropriate to ask on the related Stack Exchange site for meaning of the term and then make an update with that information to the general wiki?

It would be in effect me getting reputation for editing the standard wiki. However, it is information that I would be learning, I would be clear in asking the question for a true source that I was intending to use the result to clarify the general knowledge.

While Stack Exchange may consider itself to be a true source, its users as a great mass are not always what I would treat as a source of verification of an encyclopedia entry.

  • Re "...ask on the related Stack Exchange site for the information": What Stack Exchange site would accept such a question (not a rhetorical question)? Can you provide an example of such a question? That would also make this less abstract. Jan 11 at 22:14
  • @RobertLongson you are missing the point of the meta question. in the stack I would ask the question in the context of the missing information and at least on that stack, definitive sources are preferred for at least part of the better answers. I would not be asking for a reference. specifically I would be asking for information on what the thing was in relation to the subject matter on the wiki page. Jan 11 at 22:53
  • @RobertLongson I have edited the block-quoted question to hopefully make the intent clearer. Jan 11 at 22:59
  • 2
    @RowanHawkins You can have a look at the response I got on Mathematics Meta to this question: Questions concerning editing of Wikipedia articles. (It is definitely not the same question as your - but it is at least a bit similar. It is related to editing Wikipedia articles, too. I should also add that the question is rather old - the site has change quite a bit since then.)
    – Martin
    Jan 12 at 0:31
  • @Martin that actually helped a bunch, especially the discussion in the comments which helped me understand that I want to use SE to do is "ask someone knowledgeable" and then go find a source if one isn't provided. Frankly even on SE, I try to reference primary sources when answering questions, and over time I have started to make sure that when I am giving my opinion that I clarify it as such. I am trying to combat my own habit, which I have seen spoken about in other media, of stating authoritative opinions unless I am posting on my own blog. Jan 12 at 7:48
  • I did not want to make the comment thread here too long - so I created a chatroom Stack Exchange and Wikipedia and I posted some stuff there. (For example, you can see there how to search for Wikipedia articles which refer to some Stack Exchange site.)
    – Martin
    Jan 12 at 11:26
  • A semi-related Q&A, in terms of citing Stack Overflow (or a Stack Exchange network site) as a source: Stack Overflow as a reference in a professional paper/presentation
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Jan 12 at 20:35
  • @V2Blast one of the comments in Martin's above link has a more definitive reference from the SE organization itself stackoverflow.blog/2009/06/25/attribution-required Jan 13 at 13:45

1 Answer 1


Well - except in exceptional situations, SE's never a primary source.

I'd break down the answer to this question into 2 parts

  1. Is the question on topic, and askable on the site
  2. Does this build on "primary" research I did myself

I'm personally unsure there's a 'great' way to reference a secondary source like SE when its a primary/official source you're after.


If I had not been able to locate a term, would it have been appropriate to ask on the related Stack Exchange site for meaning of the term and then make an update with that information to the general wiki?

Yes - but show your work here, and treat it like 'another' question. Basically share your efforts/research, talk about the problem or give necessary context and so on.

I'd definitely cite the primary source (though I've no idea what wikipedia considers about the notability of SE as a primary source).

I wouldn't quote a non primary source SE answer, but I'd probably add a pointer to it where appropriate for reviewers (the talk page?) - which kinda sidesteps the need to directly attribute (since you're not quoting the answer), but definitely cite the primary source (and the SE post in the footnotes if appropriate).

I feel like I'm missing a few things out with Wikipedia etiquette but if its a secondary source treat it like as if you found an SE post pointing at a primary source, and quote/cite/attribute/reference in accordance with the norms for that.

  • 1
    Indeed. It's not just about what SE has to say on the matter, it's possible Wikipedia won't like the construction either.
    – Mast
    Jan 12 at 5:34
  • I'm just a tiny bit frustrated I feel like I'm missing half the answer cause of that, and would appreciate someone filling in that part in their own answer . Quite a bit too!
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jan 12 at 5:40
  • 1
    I prefer to use Primary sources on Wikipedia, and on SE. However in the case I implied, it took me a couple of days to figure out what the acronym was. Once I did that, it was easy to look locate a primary resource for the particular case. Wikipedia does not want to be the source of 'own work,' and it really isn't great to generate your own work for an answer. When familiar with a topic however it is easy to locate published sources. matching the need. In this case it was a topic I was learning about. So my thought was to ask on a topical SE and then use that to find a regular source. Jan 12 at 7:38
  • The comment from martin above in the question about his question in the Math Meta, actually helped me clarify that a bunch in my head. Jan 12 at 7:41
  • 1
    Re: I've no idea what wikipedia considers about the notability of SE as a primary source. I am not experienced enough with Wikipedia to answer that, but I thought it is worth at least adding a link to this: Wikipedia:Reliable sources/Perennial sources. (The table contains Stack Exchange - among many other sources. I have also added screenshot of the relevant parts in chat.)
    – Martin
    Jan 12 at 14:18
  • I wouldn't even know that 😅
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jan 12 at 14:44

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