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Should an answer containing one or several quotes only be systematically deleted?

Assume each quote has:

  • a link to the original page or answer
  • only contains the relevant portion
  • the name of the original author

For example, this quote-only answer wasn't deleted, whereas this quote-only answer was deleted (the mods didn't undeleted it on the grounds it was quote-only:

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).

  • For those who are just skimming and reading the answers below, it was closed for plagiarism, not quoting. Back now, undeleted after edit. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Sep 8 '17 at 15:25
  • @JoeTaxpayer this is false. My answer was clearly quote only. There was no plagiarism at all. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 15:29
  • That is the definition of a quote that runs longer than guidelines. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Sep 8 '17 at 15:31
  • @JoeTaxpayer no. Plagiarism = the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 15:32
  • You are correct. However our Plagiarism statute includes a "Quote only the relevant portion" warning. It was closed for the spirit of the plagiarism warning, not for the legal definition of plagiarism. And now, I am done. With these 3 meta questions. I have a large haddock to attend to. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Sep 8 '17 at 15:58
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TL:DR - "No"

Keep in mind, the nuance of the FAQ along with its enforcement is a slowly moving target.

Useful Resources -

How do I write a good answer

How to reference material written by others

What is our position on answers that consist almost entirely of copied content? (from another stack, but relevant)

How should I cite an answer elsewhere?

Answers entirely copied though properly attributed

A link-only answer, with rare exception, is not considered 'good' and will usually be deleted. First, the writer will be invited to quote from the linked article, and if they respond, that will usually end it.

The deleted answer was not deleted as 'quote only' but for plagiarism. The OP was invited to edit the text down, but only did so after the answer was deleted, and now the answer is back.

Keep in mind, the question, as posted, was awful. "What does X mean" with no context or effort by the OP is almost always going to be put on hold. When a member invited the OP to clarify the background of a question, it's incumbent on the OP to answer, and in this case inappropriate for others to just say they like the question. As it stands now, I personally found the book citation and added it the question. If one were to visit, they now would find a well asked question, and an answer that has both a quote and a clarifying question. Also, I've removed the comments there, as they no longer apply.

Last, not every question is read and scrutinized by a mod. Some of our activity is generated by members flagging, or looking at the vote queue. Other times, just regular reading. The first question you referenced which wasn't closed, quoted one run-on sentence as 90% of its content. Only now do I see that it copied a press release 100%. Not a great answer, but it was accepted by the question poser, you.

Note - I added more references within SE to offer other examples of the citation discussion. There will always be a grey area for these types of issues. I may personally look at an answer and feel that the quote was short and the OP's original thoughts sufficient, while another mod might delete for a bad mix (I'll try to refrain from using the word plagiarism as it's only a piece of the issue)

  • "The deleted answer was not deleted as 'quote only' but for plagiarism.". That's false, the answer contained no plagiarism. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 15:57
  • "A link-only answer, with rare exception, is not considered 'good' and will usually be deleted." -> In which case is a link-only answer considered as good? – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 15:58
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    I now feel you have only Come here for an argument and am leaving these (3) meta questions for good. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Sep 8 '17 at 16:01
  • " not every question is read and scrutinized by a mod. " -> True, my question was to know whether users should systematically flag for deletion quote-only answer. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 16:01
  • I'm just trying to clarify the website policies to avoid more deletion of my content and know what to flag. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 16:02
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I'm the mod that deleted the answer originally and also suggested you add some of your own content.

I had in mind this sentence from the referencing help page:

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

From my perspective, both are important to avoid plagiarism: you need to add some value of your own.

There's also an element of hysteresis in moderation decisions: Your original longer quote clearly crossed the line and I ended up deleting it. Once cut down it felt borderline and I might not have deleted it if faced with it fresh, but I was disinclined to undelete it without a bit more to push it more clearly above the line.

I also just came across this answer from a community manager on a different S.E. site has a similar take:

A quote only answer must overcome three hurdles:

  • It must properly attribute the quote.
  • It must add some sort of value over what might be discovered via a search engine.
  • It must not rehash a previous answer.

Answers that fail one or more hurdle really should be deleted.

I wasn't aware of the "might be discovered via a search engine" nuance when I initially responded to the flag, but in this case the page you linked is currently the 4th Google link for "quotational loss" and the actual quote you used is near the top of that article.

The Motley Fool article you linked to is a good example of how to quote well: it includes a short quote from the Wall Street Journal and a much longer discussion of the whole topic. Of course the original content that's appropriate would vary depending on the context and for a short "definitional" question you wouldn't expect as much.

  • 2
    First time I've seen the word 'hysteresis' used in a non-electrical/engineering context. I tip my hat to you. – JTP - Apologise to Monica Sep 8 '17 at 11:39
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    @JoeTaxpayer it's in my Q&A answers for the mod election too :-) money.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2116/366 – GS - Apologise to Monica Sep 8 '17 at 13:48
  • From the dictionary: Plagiarism = the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 16:04
  • "Your original longer quote clearly crossed the line and I ended up deleting it." -> How long can a quote be in an answer?. I don't think my quote crossed the line at all, especially since it was the nested quote. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 16:05
  • Back to my original question, "Should an answer containing one or several quotes only be systematically deleted?", is your answer a yes or no? – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 16:06
  • @FranckDernoncourt There aren't bright line answers for every question you have. I would look carefully at any quote-only answer that came to my attention in a moderation context (e.g. via flagging) and would probably now apply the principles from Jon Ericson I linked above. – GS - Apologise to Monica Sep 8 '17 at 16:29
  • @GaneshSittampalam I see. "It must add some sort of value over what might be discovered via a search engine." sounds to me like some search engine optimization, but I guess that's part of Jon Ericson's job. – Franck Dernoncourt Sep 8 '17 at 16:32
  • As an example of an answer that is entirely an attributed quote from Wikipedia, see this recent one: money.stackexchange.com/a/86605/5760. Does it fail your second criterion? – Dilip Sarwate Oct 28 '17 at 15:02
  • @DilipSarwate I guess that one meets the "not easily found by a search engine criterion", as I can't find it by googling the question title or similar variations, even though it is in Wikipedia – GS - Apologise to Monica Oct 28 '17 at 15:31
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In my opinion, if the person asking the question could have just used a search engine to come up with the link and quote, the answer is low quality at best. If you don't know the answer but you start searching around the internet for an answer that's fine, but you should at least be able to add some context. If you can't add context to the quote in your answer you might as well just post the link to the search engine results; and if the question is so basic that that's all it takes, the question is low quality too.

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