I haven't been in Politics.SE for long, but I noticed that some questions ar quite short. As an example, one can see the following

they are usually based on the approach: I heard someone, somewhere say something. Is that true?

In general, this is not necessarily bad, but as there are no reference at all, it seems the OP did not make the slightest effort in xir question. I know that on H:SE some users are quite strongly opposed to such questions, as illustrated here.

My question is thus: shouldn't we have a policy to, at least, downvote questions based on complete lack of reference?

If the OP does not make some effort in asking a question, why should I make it to answer it? And furthermore ensuring good questions would improve the overall quality of the site.

3 Answers 3


In the end, you're allowed to up or donvote for almost any reason you want.

That being said, here's my opinion of references:

I don't want people to draw a false equivalency between references and quality since references does not imply quality and lack of references does not imply a lack of quality.

References are a tool that you use to prove that you're correct about something. It is possible to have bad references that agree with your point but are still weak or even wrong. It is also possible for people to believe you or know what you're talking about even if you don't have references.

The Republican opposition Iran Nuclear Deal is a good example of a fact that most people are already familiar with. It's one of the most reported issues in the news currently. Additionally, it's probably fair to assume that they oppose the deal for similar reasons.

The "Why don't political parties support independent candidates" is a good illustration of the opposite. Suppose that the OP had a reference or two that effectively said "Yep, political parties don't support independent candidates." Would you consider that to be a good question then?

Additionally, on the point of effort, I'm not here to judge people, I'd prefer to judge content. If someone can create good content without much effort, then more power to him/her.

When I decide how to vote on a question, I consider

  • Is it on topic?
  • Is it answerable?
  • Is it interesting/non-trivial?

If the OP meets those three points, then I upvote the question. If the op falters on those points, then I down-vote the question. Sure, if the OP spends more effort on the question, then those three points are more likely to be met, but if the OP meets the points without any apparent effort, then I don't hold it against him/her.

  • I don't really agree with the statement: "The Republican opposition Iran Nuclear Deal is a good example of a fact that most people are already familiar with." I certainly heard of the news of the agreement, however, not living in the US, american news aren't my primary source of information, so no, I haven't read anything about the specific of the Republican Party's opposition. Otherwise, you are right that a reference does not solve everything. I just don't like sentences that start with "some dude did that", without even telling us who, in which circumstances. It matters. Jul 15, 2015 at 15:06
  • A good illustration is the currently highest voted answer starts with "It isn't possible to discuss why every person, or even every politician, might be opposed to the nuclear accord with Iran." Jul 15, 2015 at 15:08

I totally agree with the existing answers, but here's yet another attempt to understand the point. I'm trying to decompose the nature of StackExchange one step at a time to explain my vision.

  1. We are here to learn.
  2. Sometimes learning means changing your opinion. So, it is fine to be wrong about anything within our questions. And we expect to find truth in the answers.
    • Note however that sometimes, questions like „Why X?“ may receive answers like
      „X is untrue, Y is true, here are proofs and explanation“.
  3. Hence, the questions should be answerable. An un-answerable question does not let us learn — see (1).
  4. To make question answerable (3), it must be understandable.
  5. People may perceive (the same) information in different ways. Misunderstood questions (4) invite for useless answers. Here at Politics.SE it ends up with answers without answering, or denying the original premises, or simply proclaiming political slogans.
  6. Understandable questions (4) must provide with some clearly-defined context.
  7. Often, the context (6) can't be retrieved from the question itself. However, linked articles may provide with it.

Using this logic, we can easily tell good/bad questions. Say, your question is:

Why are some politicians saying the Iran Nuclear deal is bad?

Let's think that the OP genuinely wants to know why (and does not declare political slogans).

Here, it does not matter whether or not the deal itself good or bad (see (2) in the list above). The only thing that matters — and what the OP is asking about — is finding rationale behind why "some politicians" think/say so.

But if there are no links, we don't know who are these politicians, at what circumstances they said so, therefore we're unable to explain their point! The question becomes unanswerable.

Imagine the OP provided several links where a politician John Smith criticizes the Iranian deal. We may figure out that John Smith is affiliated with, for instance, Israel who historically finds any economical growth of Iran a strategical threat to Israel. This would be a correct answer to why John Smith opposes Iranian deal.

Again, this would not answer whether the deal itself is good or bad. But the question becomes (see the list above) to: (6) have context → hence (4) understandable → hence (3) answerable → hence (1) able to teach us something.

This way we composed it back to our mission.

  1. You CAN downvote based on any criteria you like, with narrow exceprions.

  2. Specifically, "lack of research" is an official question downvote reason if you hover over down-vote button.

So, if the asker asked about something that isn't universally known (or you think is false), and didn't show any sign of doing research (such as providing references), you have both a technical (as per #1) and even ethical (as per #2) right to downvotes such question.

My prefered approach is to ask for a reference to something that I consider to be a possibly incorrect assumption that isn't documented, and downvote if not provided after that.

  • This is specifically what I attempted, but then wondered whether there were an accepted policy here :-) Seems not. Jul 15, 2015 at 18:06
  • @bilbo_pingouin - #2 (having OFFICIAL SE label) seems to trump any site-specific policy :)
    – user4012
    Dec 4, 2015 at 21:57

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