While looking for answers to select as the proper answer to questions I've asked recently, I discovered a post which qualifies for moderation review. Stemming from Why aren't people answering using their own words? and Must answers provide citations if using external sources, and if so, how should the citing be done? , what should we do when we find text which is unattributed?

Taking the post I discovered (without linking to it), here is the answer text, posted verbatim, which has been sitting around for a few days, and has accumulated multiple up-votes:

From what i know, It's an extra way of being territorial. By putting their claw marks on the ground they're saying This is part of my territory! :)


All dogs have glands in their feet that secrete pheromones, and a couple of backward scratches into the earth (or grass as in your case) releases those chemicals.

Analysis: While parts of the first sentence do not appear in searches and seem to be the poster's own words, the second major sentence, suspiciously line-broken after the "Also,", is straight from this website page (not including the parenthesized answer-specific text):

All dogs have glands in their feet that secrete pheromones, and a couple of backward scratches into the earth releases those chemicals.

I have flagged it for moderator review.

Which of the following tasks should be done when we find text which is unattributed?

  1. Leave a comment to the author, creating public debate on the answer
  2. Fix the post outright through editing (either paraphrasing, re-phrasing, or adding the cite to the external website)
  3. Flagging them for moderator review
  4. Other
  5. One or more of the above
  • Check again the post has been fixed
    – user34
    Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 18:58
  • 1
    That's fine, but it is still going to be used as an example for this question.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 19:04
  • 3
    Do note, I didn't link to your post in this question, nor do I distinctly expose you as the author here until you did it yourself. While this information could be discovered in a simple fashion, the intent of this question isn't to single you out, but to determine what to do in these instances. I mentioned in the question above that I had flagged the post for review. You aren't the only one I've observed having done this; your post was simply the easiest to use and a good example.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 19:08
  • @JoshDM do we have to stay within the Geneva Convention??
    – user87
    Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 16:54
  • @JoshDM oops will retract.. but do we have to abide by the Geneva Convention when dealing with offenders? Please say no, please say no. hahahaha
    – user87
    Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 17:07
  • @Skippy - I'll leave it to the moderators; that's why we elect them.
    – JoshDM
    Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 17:12
  • @jos naaaah, they'll be too nice. dammit
    – user87
    Commented Oct 16, 2013 at 17:13
  • This question is flagged for close as a dupe, but I don't see listing of the dupe. Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 17:46
  • @JamesJenkins - Since I have close access, I can report that the purported dupe is meta.pets.stackexchange.com/questions/247/… , which is not a dupe. The "not actually a dupe" asks why they aren't answering in their own words. This is specific to "What should I do?"
    – JoshDM
    Commented Oct 18, 2013 at 19:02

2 Answers 2


This meta.SO answer covers the steps pretty well but I will sum it up here.

First and foremost, be as kind as possible. As with anything, assume good faith.

Check to make sure there isn't a source listed somewhere that you might have missed. If there isn't, edit one in if you can find where the text came from, which is usually easy enough to do with a Google search. Attribute, link and block-quote as necessary.

Leave a friendly comment alerting the OP. Be nice! :) Sometimes people just don't realize they need to attribute, or forget, or the like.

If you notice that one user seems to have a pattern of plagiarism, flag it for further moderator attention. In the flag, mention you suspect plagiarism, and leave sources for their unattributed quotes if you can, so the mods can follow up on it. As the site gets bigger and more popular, the more you can help the mods quickly find the things they need to make a decision on how to handle things, the better. Makes life easier for everyone if we all help each other out!

  • 3
    Beat me by 39 seconds. :-) Commented Oct 14, 2013 at 18:54

Editing the post to add the citation is the least-disruptive approach, if you're comfortable doing so. I would particularly do this for a new user, accompanying it with a clear edit comment about why I made the change.

If you see somebody doing that a lot, you should flag one of the posts and use the "other" option to explain to the mods what's going on.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .