I understand that personal opinions are generally going to be poor form for this site. But to what extent are personal observations the mark of a poor answer?

For example, someone asked if there were any denominations that do X. I had direct evidence from my having watched online video of the plenary session of a "churchwide assembly" of one denomination. I distinctly remember one speech given at the session, which was directly related to the question. But I could not find the speech on Google. Is my own recollection of the speech acceptable citation?


1 Answer 1


The way things are around here right now yes, your observations are an acceptable way to answer a question like that.

In general, our policy does not actually demand references, what it does require is that any assertions made could be referenced in theory or if challenged. Quite often an expert will make a statement about the beliefs of a certain tradition based on his or her knowledge without actually looking up a page number or link to footnote. Part of the way Stack Exchange works is that posts are then vetting by other experts and your statement will have to pass their approval.

If you start getting comments like "that isn't true, denomination X actually believes Y" then you might actually need to find that reference or start raking in the down votes.

This policy is rather slack compared to sites that require references, but it does exclude personal opinion. Personal opinion (which is what most people's first instincts are to use here) is not valid and quite a different thing than personal observations of a denominations statement.

  • +1 for a good answer overall, but especially for distinguishing between opinion and observation. Jun 7, 2013 at 17:39
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    But what it does imply is validation by refutation (or lack of it) rather than validation by corroboration ab initio. Jun 7, 2013 at 21:14
  • @AndrewLeach Yes it does. The result is definitely inferior, but raising the bar around here to require the latter has not gone over well any time we've raised it in the past. I'd love to see something in between: at least a bit more rigorous than we get by with now but now. This answer is directed at a user asking what the current accepted norms are now. It's not an attempt on my part to lobby for better norms, although there could come a time for that!
    – Caleb
    Jun 7, 2013 at 21:43
  • @AndrewLeach +1 for ab initio
    – user4060
    Jun 8, 2013 at 0:17

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