What are considered quality references?

Is there any guideline on what is or is not a good reference? Not only on this stackexchange site but on others; and at times, I'm a bit skeptical on the references. I've seen accepted answers with references to sketchy YouTube videos, detailed scientific studies, news magazine articles, to merely personal experience.

So? Are there quality guidelines to use when referencing answers?

Related?: Is there an accepted way to point out incorrect information, especially once it has been accepted by the asker?

  • I suppose "Sheldon Brown" doesn't really answer your question. :)
    – freiheit
    Jun 10, 2011 at 22:31
  • 2
    @ freiheit - Actually fine when it comes to bike repair and maintenance. Unfortunately, Mr Brown was not up to date on the human engine.
    – user313
    Jun 10, 2011 at 23:16

3 Answers 3


I wouldn't be worried about quality, but simply providing a reference with appropriate context in your answer when you can. Others can judge the merits of the reference themselves.

Note that relating personal experience is also acceptable (even on Skeptics, though the bar is much higher) so long as it relates to the answer and is explained in a way that others can, again, judge the merits of your experiences as they apply to the question.

  • 1
    @wdy we have more problems with people providing links with no quoted context whatsoever than a general low quality reference problem.. I'd be happy if users would more often explain what is at the link, not just "check this out <link>!" Jun 14, 2011 at 22:29
  • Next feature rollout in SE: Answers to be limited to 240 characters or less. Jun 15, 2011 at 6:00
  • 1
    @Neil: twitexchange?
    – Мסž
    Jun 16, 2011 at 4:01

I think it depends on the question, and, in particular, what the OP asks for.

  • If a question is specifically asking for an answer with references to peer-reviewed sources, those references will be more reliable.
  • Upvoted questions or answers on SE sites could certainly be used as sources, in some situations; you'll have to use your judgment.
  • As freiheit pointed out, Sheldon Brown is a respected source for mechanical and general cycling info, and doubtless will be for quite some time. Other sites like Icebike, Rivendell, Peter White cycles, et cetera, are nearly on the same level.
  • An article in a respected newspaper or magazine should be given more weight than one in, say, the Huffington Post.
  • YouTube videos and suchlike content are, of course, the bottom of this ladder, along with pages on social networking sites.
  • Look-at-this-neat-link sites (such as the ones in the Gawker network or Fark) are dependent on the quality of the links they reference. Some sites that serve up "articles" that are often just links are better thought-out, though, since they seem to spend time on sending you to quality articles. (For example, Slashdot or BoingBoing.)

Whether we need to worry about all this here is, again, determined by the question. If a "low-quality" source illustrates your point, and isn't essential to the quality of your answer... there's no reason not to use it.


Personally I think that we need to make this site definitive, i.e. what other people cite. A well thought out answer from the likes of @zenbike that is contemporary and up to date with what works in the showroom/workshop is of more interest to me than yet another link to what Sheldon Brown has to say.

B.T.W. what happened to @Мסž - his answers were well useful and he appears to have gone AWOL...


You must log in to answer this question.