Does Mi Yodeya have a standing plagiarism policy?

For example most of this answer, including the material out of the blockquote, is lifted from a letter by English-American revolutionary Thomas Paine Reply to the Bishop of Llanaff 1803. When confronted about it in the comments, the user admits "I found this on a website a long time ago. It may be from Paine but I am not sure. "

Should such posts be flagged for moderator intervention, left standing, something other?


2 Answers 2


Plagiarism is the opposite of the sort of intellectual honesty and clarity that our citation guidelines call for. As the general Stack Exchange policy indicates, plagiarized posts may be downvoted or deleted. See also the Stack Exchange Inauthentic Use policy, which forbids plagiarism.

If you see a post that uses material from elsewhere without attribution, comment, asking the author to bring the post in line with our citation guidelines, or fix it yourself. If the author refuses to fix the post or resists your efforts to do so, flag it.

As with all ways that a post may need fixing, the more it can be handled collaboratively and by the community, the better. If necessary, mods can step in to lock, delete, etc. As plagiarism can be a violation of the SE Code of Conduct, repeated/flagrant instances could lead to account suspension.

  • Thank you, I appreciate the clarification on the policy. Feb 16 at 11:20

If the failure to cite the quote is simply because the author can't remember the source, and is honest about that, I wouldn't call it plagiarism. That word implies the intent to deceive the reader, but this author did not try to hide the source. In the event of a memory lapse, we can ask the readers to add the source if they find it. That is collaboration as a community of trustworthy people.

Being able to admit that you don't remember a source is a sign of humility and honesty and scholarly maturity, and should not be punished. We will miss out on a lot of good answers if people think that they must know everything to speak up about anything. Maybe we could have footnotes or parentheses where the author explains any such memory lapse or lack of certainty, so as to avoid accidentally misleading a reader.

  • 2
    The referred to example "answer" was not merely an idea that someone forgot the source for... it was paragraphs of material effectively being passed off as the poster's own. There was no prefacing statement to the effect of "I have these notes, I don't recall where from, that state xyz" it was largely a cut and paste job that was admitted after being pressed. I absolutely do think we should call out such behavior and keep it out of this community. Refusing to tolerate plagiarism does not exclude good answers, it encourages honest answers. Mar 4 at 13:19
  • Thank you for this thoughtful analysis. We very much encourage people to honestly and explicitly say where they got information or words, even if they have to do it vaguely. See answers to judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/712/… and judaism.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1444/… . In this sense, honesty and humility very much go together, especially when one is unsure of one's source.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Mar 5 at 13:03

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