While I understand we've had guidelines on Meta to discuss how a user should handle their own citations, I think we should visit how and when we should edit Questions and Answers regarding citations.

  1. If adding citations to someone else's post as an edit, do we need to add to questions, answers, or both?
  2. If adding citations to someone else's post, should we source the physical books, online resources, or both?
  3. If just adding citations, is it better to "teach a man to fish" and comment about adding source rather than assuming where they are sourcing their information?
  4. Ultimately, do we even need to add citations to names of mechanics or just to quotations? Do either/or always require? When is it or isn't it useful to update based on that?

I think the approach for citing one's own answers is different than citing someone else's. The primary thought on this is that we don't actually know the source someone else references - we do know it when we do it ourselves.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the timeframe? You can't teach a dead man to fish if he abandoned the plane to chase a woman who not only knows how to fish but also knows how to live a good life. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 13, 2019 at 13:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Almost certainly a duplicate of #2: Stance on using D&D Beyond for references? \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2019 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose Added a line on why i think they're different - but they could very well not be if others disagree. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 13, 2019 at 14:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu You're making an assumption that they won't return to edit. A good starting to point to support that, and maybe you've done this - is to look at their profile to see when their last visit was.Feel free to include timeframes you think are important in an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 13, 2019 at 14:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not making that assumption, but I think it is relevant to the question to define what older posts are. I edit regardless, with the singular purpose of improving the answer. What now improves an answer is difficult to say especially regarding the frequent enforcement of formatiing styles that happend to all of my answers until I adopted it, for instance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 13, 2019 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu So submit an answer that addresses what timeframe you think matters. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 13, 2019 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Point to consider: if you can take a mechanic name, go to D&D Beyond, and run a quick search to get it, so can anyone with D&D Beyond familiarity. Merely editing everything to add D&DB links everywhere is of limited value. The edits themselves meanwhile can be disruptive if there's too many of them in too narrow a time frame. \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2019 at 14:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener how are they disruptive? \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 13, 2019 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu A couple of basic ways: questions get bumped to the front page to (a) highlight newer questions in need of answers and (b) help us identify recent activity that may need attention, like a newer user's post where they could do with guidance and peer review. Lots and lots of edits diminishes new questions' activity on the front page making new questions, and makes it harder to spot recent activity needing attention, especially if you edit on the same page as that activity (it may get entirely missed). \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2019 at 14:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener So less workload for moderators and visibility for new posts is a more important goal than providing the best questions/answers that we can provide in order to to build a library of detailed answers to every question about role-playing games, including those that are 5 years old? \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 13, 2019 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu While Meta does have a lot more leeway for discussion in comments, this seems like a good opp for both you, doppel, and anyone else to present your thoughts and arguments as answers to this question. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 13, 2019 at 14:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu These look very much like comments/discussion that would be more relevant on this Q&A. \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2019 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Back on the topic of #2 being a possible duplicate; I'd agree that it's a duplicate of the linked question, to the extent that if we agree it's appropriate to add citations to others' questions/answers (i.e. where it's not the source of their confusion), then the linked question tells us which to use. (Obviously we should avoid linking to D&D Beyond in the question if it's clear OP is looking at an old version of something and has missed a change that was made in errata that addresses the issue, since DDB has the latest version of that thing without calling out any change.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 13, 2019 at 21:02

2 Answers 2


Add Links To Things You Are Actually Citing

Referencing (PHB p.123) or linking to a SRD or whatever for content in your answer is good.

Adding Links To Everything Referenced Is Of Questionable Value

Every single spell etc. mentioned in a question or answer don't need links.

So let's ask, why add links? There's one good and two not so good reasons.

  1. It's hard to find content (but still legally available). A weird third party Pathfinder class, especially one named the same as another one - a link is very valuable.
  2. It's just, you know, for quick reference. I would think those that are D&D players know where to go read Magic Missile. It doesn't hurt anything to have it but it also doesn't add a lot, especially if it's not a link to a specific hard to find piece of content but just normal thing X in a big alphabetical list of things already. "Here's where the illusion/shadow subschool rules are" is good, "Magic Missile" is not so good.
  3. I am not familiar with this game or content but I would like to just read the info the OP already has and issue my opinion, which is not really expert advice.

They Will Probably Become Out Of Date Eventually

Let's get real, this is mostly a question about D&D and derivatives. And WotC changes their computer systems fairly frequently and invalidate old links. We are not an automatically updating wiki; keep in mind every reference added that doesn't actually help someone will probably add even more work in the future.

Not to mention then there's fights over the "right place" to link from. In Pathfinder there's the PRD and PFSRD, there's dndtools.eu and other semi-pirate sites... This doesn't mean don't do it, but when doing it realize it's not a friction-free activity.


As a result, you would use judgement and determine whether extensive linking is really adding value to a question or not, given the costs (effort, eventual change) of the link. You could go nuts and link every single game term like a big ol' index, or you could never link anything. The appropriate approach is in the middle and best done via judgement developed by feedback over time.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you advocating for not having to cite sources in general? That the assumption is folks know where to prove/disprove the quote? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 13, 2019 at 18:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Updated, I'm more reacting to the "add links to everything" not normal citation guidelines that are already covered on meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    May 13, 2019 at 19:00

1. There is no requirement as to how extensive edits must be (and rightly so)

We have very few requirements that editors need adhere to. If you are editing and you only want to improve the question, you are allowed and encouraged to do so. Just like you are allowed and encouraged to make an improving edit to a post that doesn't solve all of the issues that post might have. There's no reason that an editor would have to add links and citations to answers if they do the question or vice-versa. Of course, it is always better if you make all the improvements that you can see on a post while you are there, but in no way should we be making it a hard rule.

Make improvements to a post if you can and to the limit of your ability and energy. As long as an edit makes a significant improvement to the material it is a good edit.

2. Either reference is fine, both are better

Either paper or online reference is fine (and certainly better than none), but having both is the best option if you can manage it. This applies equally to writing as to editing an answer. See this Q&A for a more in-depth discussion.

3. "Assuming" the source is something we already do and is fine in cases where it clearly isn't the issue

"Assuming" the source is fine as long as you are certain that the source doesn't matter (eg is not the source of their confusion). After all, if the question is referencing a certain thing people are naturally going to assume it comes from a standard source even in the absence of an explicit citation. Adding a source in that case does not hurt anything as long as you are certain that it is not a factor. As always, editors must use their best judgement with their edits, and harmful edits can be reverted.

As far as commenting goes: if you feel like the user is constantly under-citing their questions or answers in a way that severely negatively affects their content, make an edit and leave a comment telling them that you would recommend improving that aspect of their post-making in the future. However, leaving comments just because a question didn't link to DnDB on a spell that they quoted the relevant parts on and just didn't cite the page # (or URL) is likely at least overkill if not overly aggressive.

We have the power to edit to improve posts for a reason, and if the way a user is making their posts is not negatively affecting their posts, there is no need for them to correct anything.

4. Links to every name in a post is not necessary at all, but also not harmful

Again, we don't need to do anything here. The site will certainly not burn to the ground for the lack of a hyperlinked spell name and we already have a Q&A talking about the value of adding such things. If the edit makes the post better, it is a good and acceptable edit.

Adding a link to a feature name can certainly be at least a slight improvement and is generally not harmful (again in cases where the source of the content from OP is wrong or inaccurate is about the only time where this is the case). This is a case where we likely can't have a solid rule about when is good or bad to add this, and should be left up to the judgement of the editors. The vast majority of the time, the edits are at least benign, so making rules about when they can be made seems completely unnecessary.

Most of the time the only issue is when these kinds of edits are made in rapid succession, but that issue is being handled in a separate Q&A.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify, in 3 are you assuming there is no citation at all? Is this for citing quotes or just in reference to a mechanic (spell/ability/etc.) that's mentioned in the prose? And is your ultimate answer "do nothing, let folks do it how they want and community will either let it go or roll it back?" \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 13, 2019 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I slightly misread that question. I'm making an edit. \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2019 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ No worries - I also added a fourth bit that does address this issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 13, 2019 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch how's that? \$\endgroup\$ May 13, 2019 at 14:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this looks good and answers the question. Frequency is still an issue, but that's...a separate question :) I guess it's an issue of "in general, this is okay...until the process of doing this steps on another issue's toes" \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 13, 2019 at 14:34

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