Is it nice to link to other Q&A sites when answering questions? I know that we don't have expectations as skeptics people. But, I have a bad feeling when we come up with an answer based on someone's saying elsewhere in the internet.

This answer might be a close example (I've edited it now, with a better link from @dmckee). The answerer cites the phrase to some guy at some other Q&A site. Saying by its looks, that's a low quality site for sure. For instance, we don't even know who the guy, or what his specialty in our field is....

Our site is a high-quality Q&A site. We usually come to the conclusion, from each others' answers, based on agreement of previously known facts. And, I'm convinced that this answer is okay with it. I mean, it says that the viscosity of vodkas vary with brands. With some common sense, we all can agree with that. So, the citing doesn't matter here.

What about a technical one? Wouldn't the same "citing to another Q&A site" (well, most are pretty much low quality when compared to us) reduce the quality of our answers?

  • $\begingroup$ For that answer, I think that that link does not' help demonstrate the point. Also, I think the standard policy of explaining whatever the link does should apply here, too, unless you' are sure that that link will never disappear (e.g., if it's your onw blog, and you wvontn' delete that.) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 26, 2013 at 6:56

1 Answer 1


When you're answering a question about an observation like settling in fluid there are two parts to the answer. One is an explanation of the mathematical model used, and the second is the estimation of numerical values for constants used in your calculation.

The mathetical model rarely needs citations, except possibly you're using a citation to skip the gory details, as it should be fairly obvious if the maths makes sense. Finding numerical values is far harder. Taking the question you linked, I also tried to look up the viscosity of vodka and rather surprisingly Google failed to find anything useful. Even the simpler search for the viscosity of water/ethanol mixtures took some searching. Under these circumstances you may be reduced to quoting figures from some questionable source. That doesn't necessarily matter if it's clear how you're using the data and how possible errors in the numerical values may affect your conclusion.

It's a bit unfair to point to a particular question, but if you look at my and Joe Hilton's answers then actually neither is very good, since neither of us give a model for the settling of gold leaf flakes in a fluid. In fact, as Bernhard points out, a naive calculation using Stoke's law gives an unrealistically high settling rate, and it's not immediately obvious to me how to model the settling of such unusually shaped and flexible particles.

So, my point is that citations from dubious sources are not in themselves a problem as it depends on the context and what exactly the citation is being used for.

  • $\begingroup$ I have to agree about the surprising difficulty of the particular search here. I tried half a dozen incantation before one gave me the link I added to the comment. There were a large number of collisions with different subjects. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ True, that's a good point. I admit that finding numerical values are hard these days (I myself have suffered a lot). But, the citation previously given in that answer, does nothing worthy, I guess. It just says, "viscosity of alcohols vary with brands" (seems quite ludicrous to me, many of us already know that, right?) :D $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 25, 2013 at 17:34

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