I have quite a bit of experience and education and I feel that I am qualified to make statements of fact.

So why should I or any of the other experts on the site back up my answers with references?

What does it add to the answer and why is just saying it is true not enough?

This is not intended to ask why I personally need to back them up but rather why it is important in general.


3 Answers 3


(Speaking generally, not to Chad in particular.)

You may know that you know what you're talking about, but how does that help others? You're just a name on the Internet, and Stack Exchange's goal for any site is for 90% of traffic to come from searches. Even if everybody here knows your credentials (which we won't, once we reach a healthy size), that doesn't mean the Joe Googler does.

Therefore answers need to show enough about why they're correct that an independent person can make an assessment. This can be through quoting sources or by sharing your credentials (probably among other things). "I've been a veterinarian for 20 years" and "I wrote my PhD thesis on this topic" and "the shelter where I volunteer does it this way and that's worked for thousands of cases" are all ways of backing up your answer.

So references, specifically, aren't required, but some form of backing up what you say is important. References are one way to do that.


I think the important thing is that an answer provides credibility. References are one way to do that; experience and education are another.

Pets is a little unusual for Stack Exchange in that the merit of most answers basically boils down to how they impact the welfare of a living animal -- often a specific one that's emotionally important to the person asking the question. So there's an ethical obligation for the husbandry and veterinary information we provide to be reliable. The danger is not so much from outright bad answers, since those will hopefully get downvoted and commented quickly. It's more from inadequate answers that sound like they're coming from personal knowledge, but really aren't much more than superficial copypasta from other websites.

An answer doesn't necessarily need to stand on its own authority, but you need to convince the reader that you understand the topic well enough to judge what you're saying. If an answer can't provide enough detail and context to do this, it should feel out of place regardless of its citations.


This is an issue I have been complaining about for the many moons Pets has been open (erm have even completed a full lunar cycle yet??). Doea study and experience count?

But my attitude has changed, I agree with the other answers and reiterate, a point made in chat between @John Cavan and I. John said it takes time for an individual to build up cred in the community and I said, yes, but what about people from the general public?

Meaning, the general public don't know who we are.

  • For me, personally, I am trying to provide citations as much as possible. AS that is what the community has asked for. It doesn't matter that an answer can roll of the tip of my tongue, people don't know if what is in my head is reliable, and I don't really until I check it, as science (and much about caring for pets is scientific) changes over time.

One word of caution:

  • I think it's important where we get our citations from. Some sources are credible and others are not. I can see the community chiming in when they see a source that may not be so reliable.


  • You can also put your credentials up on your profile (eg @James Jenkins has good blurb about his experience with rabbits), though not as a replacement for citations (and James doesn't do this I may add, he is an example).
  • 3
    Agreed on 'flimsy' sources - if the page you're looking at has more ads than content, there's a pretty good chance they're serving someone else's content, so folks should avoid just grabbing random links for the sake of having some to add to their answer.
    – user105
    Nov 9, 2013 at 6:42

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