Many posters report claims in statements such as

  • This author claims that…
  • Some claim that… OR Someone claims that…
  • I read that…

containing no supporting evidence, source or reference.

Should we insist that claims always be supported in the body of post (question or answer) by a source citation?

Should we create a comment template requesting that sources be indictated?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Prior discussions on requiring citations (in general, not specific to the situation in this question): physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/564/50583, physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/6667/50583, physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/7750/50583 $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 23:03
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What exactly does "insist" entail for you here? Are you asking whether we should downvote posts with worthless "references" like "somewhere"? Or are you asking whether we should close/delete them? $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind Mod
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 23:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind this could be a reason to close but it seems my question is a near duplicate of physics.meta.stackexchange.com/q/564/36194 even if the title of the former is somewhat misleading. It seems to me that many comments to questions boil down to “where”, “which book”, “who said that” so systematically requesting sources would alleviate and clarify many posts. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 0:56
  • $\begingroup$ I edited my question to include a possible suggestion. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 1:03
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Often the answer is to vote to close as "needs detail or clarity" - I'm not going to go read a paper to try and figure out where the claim is and in relation to what. The few times I have, it usually turns out the OP did not understand the paper. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 18:51
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @JonCuster why not write this up as an answer? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 22, 2021 at 20:19

1 Answer 1


I think that such reported claims should be judged case by case. There are completely different scenarios connected to claims.

For example

  1. "my teacher claims that blackbody entropy is proportional to the surface and not to the volume";
  2. "in a book, J.Smith claims that we can get energy from the orbital motion of asteroids";
  3. "I read somewhere, that Newton used the concept of energy";
  4. "I recently read that Swendsen claims that the $\frac{1}{N!}$ factor in front of the canonical partition function has nothing to do with the indistinguishability of particles";

For different reasons, I do not think it is reasonable or important to ask for a source citation for the examples from $1$ to $3$. In the case of $1$, the original claim is not verifiable but this does not hamper the possibility of an answer addressing the underlying concepts independently of the context where the question originated. In the case n. $2$, it would probably be wise to ask for clarifying the question, independently of the exact title of the book. Answer to question $3$, even without references, should be simple to answer for everybody who knows that energy was formally identified and used almost a century after the Principia. In my opinion, the only case where a specific source for the claim would be required is n. $4$. However, if a reference to Swendsen's papers where the problem is addressed would be made in an answer, that would be ok.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think that also 2 needs a citation and, possibly, a quotation from the source, because the reader might have misunderstood the claim. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 21:19

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