# Is there some rule regarding a user posting the same answer at different (but similar) questions?

Recently I found that one user was posting the same answer (copy of a single answer) at different question though they were similar enough for same answer to be posted. So what is the consensus of the community regarding such kind of incidents?

Also clarify why it should or shouldn't be done.

• Hi A_not_so_random_user. Welcome to Phys.SE. I removed the voting part of your post, partly because voting works a bit differently on meta. We might eventually hold such a voting. – Qmechanic Dec 8 '19 at 16:41
• @Qmechanic thanks I just thought that this would organise the thought of the users on this topic! – user248197 Dec 8 '19 at 17:16
• Essentially a dupe of physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/8891/25301 – Kyle Kanos Dec 8 '19 at 18:13
• Posting duplicate answers is not good. Here is a related post from Stack Overflow meta, but this policy applies across the network. – PM 2Ring Dec 8 '19 at 18:42
• @Kyle That's similar, but it doesn't cover an author posting their own answer to multiple questions. – PM 2Ring Dec 8 '19 at 18:50
• @PM2Ring considering you can plagiarize yourself, sure seems closer than just "similar" to me – Kyle Kanos Dec 8 '19 at 19:05

I am not sure there is a "community consensus", but it shouldn't be done. If the same exact answer can be used for multiple questions, then it is most likely that the questions are duplicates.$$^*$$

If a user is just copying and posting the same exact answer to various questions, and the answers don't really apply to the questions, then this is what flags are for. Raise a custom flag explaining that the answers are exact duplicates by the same user. Flag the questions as duplicates if appropriate.

$$^*$$I say most likely, because sometimes a user might provide extra information in an answer that was not the focus of the question it was posted on, yet that extra information might serve as a more focused answer for a different question that is related but not a duplicate.

• While linking to the original is probably a good idea, the information in the original answer should also be adopted to the new answer, in case the old one is lost. – Jeroen Dec 16 '19 at 2:21

While I don't approve this behaviour, I'd like to mention that unless there's something wrong with the answer besides it being copied (like plagiarism, or a user posting almost exclusively copy-pasted content), there's not much that can be done with it. You can warn the user of course, however, they are free to ignore you, and flagging doesn't guarantee the expected outcome: mods are rather conservative when it comes to removing answers (and for a good reason).

• if the answer does apply, the real problem is with the question being a duplicate. If it isn't a duplicate, then posting an applicable answer is actually beneficial, so there's nothing you should do.

• Two questions having the same answer does not make those questions necessarily duplicates. – JMac Dec 19 '19 at 15:48

Technically speaking, it is really plagiarism to copy & paste answers to multiple questions and should be addressed via custom moderator flag indicating it as such. Downvotes & comments on such a post are likely expected, I would also think. There is also the official SE FAQ on the matter which says,

Copying and pasting the same answer to multiple questions can cause different reactions depending on what answer you're pasting. The acceptableness of this behavior ranges from "highly frowned upon" to "completely unacceptable". (Note that it never reaches the "acceptable" end of that spectrum.) If you catch yourself or someone else doing this, please evaluate the answer and see if there is a more correct thing to do.

with an additional note that the Community User flags duplicated content for moderator review.

So at the very least, I think one should leave a comment informing the user that this is not typical/expected behavior for answering questions on the site--when doing so, please provide a link to the copied content so that mods & those with sufficient rep can vote & act accordingly as well. It might also be useful to include the link to the SE FAQ on duplicated posts.

• I actually wouldn't group it under plagiarism - at least, as far as I and (I think) the other mods are concerned, plagiarism is when you copy someone else's content. But this behavior is frowned upon for sure, so it's merely a technicality what we call it. – David Z Dec 9 '19 at 20:06
• So self-plagiarism isn't a thing? Okay. – Kyle Kanos Dec 9 '19 at 20:15
• "Self-plagiarism" is a horrifying misnomer. For all that the battle may be lost, I firmly reject the phrase. Re-using your own work can be miscondcut, but it shouldn't be called "pagiarism". – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Dec 9 '19 at 20:18
• @KyleKanos Probably worth noting that even the link you provide spends a not-insignificant amount of time explaining that the concept of self-plagiarism is contested. – bendl Dec 10 '19 at 21:27
• If a scientist gives the same talk at Princeton University and at Stanford University, it is not plagiarism. "Self-plagiarism" is only unethical if you claim that the material is new. Does Stackexchange say that answers have to be new material anywhere? – Peter Shor Dec 14 '19 at 16:35
• @PeterShor relevant SE FAQ; it isn't explicit in stating material should be new, however it definitely says copy + pasted answers (i.e., self plagiarism) is bad (ranges from "frowned upon" to "completely unacceptable"). – Kyle Kanos Dec 14 '19 at 18:24
• Also, I'm assuming that the DV's are because of the plagiarism aspect. If you DV'd for another reason, I'd be glad to hear it. – Kyle Kanos Dec 14 '19 at 18:33