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This is interesting to me. I am not saying that citations are bad, I am just wondering for myself as I do not plan to do big long searches on the internet to find the answers elsewhere and just re-post the answer that I am citing on a different forum. It seems like a weird concept to me.

Is this a forum to answer questions based on your own knowledge or are you supposed to gather external knowledge and say this is the answer because all these other people agree.

I only answer questions that I can personally account for in my own culinary experience and education. Should not having citations and/or simply having some wrong wording really account for a negative vote or should it just be a comment to clarify or request a change to be made.

I am just wondering as I really want to know if this site is really for my use. I spend a lot of time reading the various questions and picking ones that I have first hand knowledge about to answer. I am really not trying to get the highest score by answering as many question as I can find answers for via Google/Bing and linking to and citing them.

Anyway, what is every ones thoughts?

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Stack Exchange is supposed to be a fusion of forum elements and wiki elements, among other things. Although we are not Wikipedia and don't try to enforce all of the same rules or principles that they do, there is one particular principle that is very important to us: Verifiability.

Loosely speaking, verifiable claims fall into a few distinct categories:

  1. Claims that are directly observable or testable. "The sky is blue." "if you overcook a piece of meat, it will dry out."

  2. Claims published in reliable third-party sources: Peer-reviewed journals, books from reputable culinary professionals, etc. See my suggested hierarchy of sources.

  3. Self-referencing claims, e.g. I am happy right now, as long as there is no reasonable reason to suspect that the author is lying or exaggerating.

It's actually wrong to say that we expect or require citations on every post. You may sometimes see people say "[citation needed]" as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Wikipedia template, or maybe you'll see a community member or moderator say "please cite reliable sources" if a particular question is expected to generate a lot of noise. Either way, these people are talking about questionable claims. An incomplete list of examples would be:

  1. Popular myths. "Adding oil to pasta water prevents sticking."
  2. Popular half-truths. "You should always add cold oil to a hot pan."
  3. Popular beliefs that are plausible but simply unproven or oversimplified. Cooking destroys nutrients in food. (sure, but it also increases bioavailability of the ones that remain)
  4. Claims which simply seem to have been pulled from thin air. I've heard that sugar loses flavor over time. Huh? Where did you hear that? You'll more often find these types of claims in questions than answers.

Often you'll find people defending questionable claims as "common knowledge" or "common sense". Sometimes, they'll be based on real facts but jump to bizarre conclusions based on logical fallacies. That is what we don't want to see here.

One reason why we don't allow most nutrition questions is that the vast majority of "information" being dispensed about it clearly falls under the "questionable" heading. But it's prevalent in cooking too, with cooks apparently being especially prone to superstition inherited from centuries past.

I still hear people saying that searing meat "locks in" juices, or that you need to soak beans before cooking them. Those claims are demonstrably wrong and I can just point them to Hervé This, but there are many other claims which have yet to be put under the microscope and I don't necessarily have time to do the experiments myself. So, [citation needed] it is.

Citations are especially important when discussing subjects that can't be directly observed or tested in a home setting. Of particular note are the subjects of food safety and culinary-related nutrition. Unless you're an experienced microbiologist, you're not qualified to be making first-hand statements about bacterial growth. Leave that to the experts.

So to recap all of this: We don't expect every claim to have a citation, but we do expect them to be verifiable. Generally speaking, if you're answering a how question, the burden of proof is fairly low; either it works or it doesn't, and people will vote accordingly. But if you're answering other types of questions (especially "why" questions) then please think very carefully about whether or not the information you're providing is reliable.

As Yossarian says, you're welcome to post whatever you want as an answer, but you will be voted down and/or criticized if you don't make a reasonable effort. It is completely acceptable for people to do this and generally not acceptable to reply with a snarky remark about the burden of proof. Not that I'm accusing anyone specifically, just putting it out there as a general tip.

If you can't prove it or at least back it up, don't post it here. Please.

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    well said; fwiw, this is covered by the new user answer popup, as seen here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/84668/… now if only people would read it... – Jeff Atwood Sep 24 '11 at 22:55
  • sounds good. I can understand that. again I was just trying to understand the overall expectations. if I am going to participate in a community I want to make sure it is a fit. For both me and the community. I have been down voted before and I usually try to ask why I was down voted but this is for me so I can provide better answers next time. Hopefully those haven't come across as snarky. if so you can tell me straight out, I will work on that as well. I pretty thick skinned and won't really take offense. – jeffwllms Sep 25 '11 at 5:02
  • and thanks for the response I think you have clarified the community expectation very well. – jeffwllms Sep 25 '11 at 5:07
  • @TasteFive: Sure, no problem, you've asked a valid question here and it's good to have these discussions on meta, otherwise more people will view them as arbitrary and silly rules. The structure here (and on the rest of SE) does take some getting used to, and may make some people uncomfortable; we believe it's for the best. – Aaronut Sep 25 '11 at 6:39
  • Great answer!!! – yossarian Sep 25 '11 at 15:03
  • @TasteFive, I recommend that you do not ask why you were down voted in a comment. Even if you are asking in good faith, it makes you look whine-y and petulant or worse, makes you look like you're asking for sympathy upvotes. If someone down votes and doesn't leave a comment, just let it go; you're never going to get an explanation anyway. If you're really curious, ask about it in chat. I appreciate you trying to figure out what's going on and fit in to the community! – yossarian Sep 25 '11 at 15:06
  • Great answer. I would only point out an exception, Skeptics SE, where having citations is considered the norm in every answer. – nico Oct 16 '11 at 6:11
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This is really a site for expert answers, which differentiates it from almost any other place on the web where you might ask a question. Questions here are not about "what do you think about this" but rather "what is the right answer to this". Since this is the internet, a reader doesn't know if the answer's author is a world class chef or a idiot in with cheetos stains on their wife beater. Sources provide a much more objective measure for an answer's accuracy. Generally, the best answers will come from internal knowledge but then be backed up with citations to prove a point.

People tend to vote for answers that they feel they can trust. This trust tends to be earned either through heavy citation or the author's rep. Given two identical answers, the user with the higher rep or the answer with the better underlying citations seems to get more up votes. So if you want your answer to stand out, cite. If you want someone to actually believe your position, cite.

Some questions don't require external sources for your answer, but I think that most of the more interesting ones do.

At the end of the day, if you don't want to include that in your answers, don't. But don't be surprised or upset if voting patterns reflect that.

  • Not upset at all, just looking for clarification. I have gotten a couple down votes and read in your FAQ about when you should down vote. Although I don't know if my answer deserved the down vote it really doesn't matter to me, I do like that there was a cost to the person the down voted so they abviously thought that it was worth it. – jeffwllms Sep 23 '11 at 20:06
  • In the end I think it helps as I do want to try to post the best answer to the question I possible can. I am really just unwilling to spend days gathering sources to prove my case. I guess I king of thought that was what the voteing system was for. I post my answer if the general consensus was that it was correct it gets voted up. If they thought it was incorrect they vote someone else's answer or offer a different one. It just seems to much like here is my answer with built in votes from around the web so you should believe me. Just to much work for me I think. – jeffwllms Sep 23 '11 at 20:12
  • It almost seems to me the site and expectations are such that you must go out an find the answer or at least someone that agrees with you first. Anyway, if in general writing a good answer means that one needs to go out and find stuff to back it up, time constraints just won't allow it for me. So I might be better off just staying away from the discussion, as I don't really have a desire to try to compete with those that just seem to go out and find the answer to the question and re-post it. As it seems they fair the best here. – jeffwllms Sep 23 '11 at 20:13
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    @TasteFive, by all means, if you think it's too much trouble, then don't do it. Not every answer has citations. – yossarian Sep 23 '11 at 20:27
  • True that, I might still play around a bit. Basically I see it is my decision and not truly a requirement. It seems to mainly be something that is requested because it is difficult for some to tell who knows what they are talking about. I suppose the more you participate and reputation is increased that is less an issue. Also it wouldn't hurt to update my profile :) – jeffwllms Sep 23 '11 at 20:33
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    @TasteFive, Exactly. If you have well reasoned, well written answers from your own experience, you'll do fine here, with or without citations. – yossarian Sep 23 '11 at 20:36

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