Proposal: Make it a requirement to cite sources/material, with uncited questions put [on-hold] until such a time as content is attributed to the correct source (possible addition of a custom close reason?)
The need for correct attribution of material is well established in the academic community:
whether quoting, paraphrasing, or using others' ideas to advance their own arguments, authors should give explicit credit to the source of those words or ideas. This credit often takes the form of a formal citation
Source: The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.)
Whilst not an academic site, there would be benefits to Chem.SE adopting a more rigorous approach to the attribution of material.
I actually suspect that theres a lot of consensus (in principle) for the idea of higher standards here (at least amongst regular users), which would make the question: what is an appropriate level of citation?
Many questions here ask about problems encountered in a specific textbook/online resource. These questions should include citation to the original source, especially where sections of text/figures are inserted verbatim. The addition of citations would:
Allow easier searching of Chem.SE for issues/questions relating to a particular resource. To give a concrete example, I often see many questions relating to a particular
crap organic chemistry textbook that is popular in the USA. Screenshots of material form this book are often inserted into questions without citation. If the material was attributed correctly, it would be possible to run a search for
[organic-chemistry] is:question Klein and find all of these questions in one hit. This would benefit people studying from that book (an informal errata/study guide), but could also help find duplicates
Provide context to allow other users to go back to the original source and read what else had been said relating to a given topic. Often, the answer to the question posed was given a couple of pages previously and the person asking the question simply hasn’t bothered to read enough of their book
Helps with cleanup. One of the big pains with these photo style questions is that the photos are of a terrible quality. If the material was appropriately cited it would make it far easier to edit questions with better reproductions (or even if someone wanted to edit to type out the question for accessibility purposes. I think Melanie has been keen on doing this).
Overall, the proposal for questions is that we start putting questions on hold that simply don’t make any effort to attribute where the material has came from. In all likelihood, this will fall on deaf ears (as it does when you ask people to edit questions to include their attempt), but it could help raise the bar of questions generally.
As Martin pointed out in the comments above, answers are possibly a bit different. Whilst I maintain (as previously) that screenshots/passages of text must be attributed (and actually, I propose we also get tougher on this, flagging answers that blatantly plagiarise books/journals without citation), the question of when to cite general concepts becomes more of a grey area.
Overall, I don’t think we necessarily need to enforce citations for answers (other than for the material discussed above) unless the concept is particularly unusual/controversial. It makes no point to start quoting random textbooks for comments like
the SN2 reaction is stereospecific, this is common knowledge, and any one of 100000 places could be cited.
(That said, an old post was recently bumped in which an answer stated
was probably studied in a gas phase, but I haven't seen papers supporting this. All the forms are probably present in the gas phase, but I don't know the exact distribution, this is truly awful, and if nothing else is just a pointless, pointless, answer)
The tl’dr version of the above is that I think it would massively benefit the community to toughen up on attribution of material. For questions, its barely an extra effort, and for answers, if people are forced to think about what they’re typing, the general bar of questions would be raised.