Best practices for requesting cites

Cites are important on the SDMB, especially in FQ/GD/PE. Even in the Pit, the readers want to know what the heck you’re talking about.

Here’s how I think it should go:

  1. Request a cite.
  2. If none is provided after your request, or you think that the cite is faulty, post your own cite to make the point that you want to make.
  3. If the conversation is still not productive (or to your liking), just drop it.

In this thread, Whats the legality of prosecuting someone for doing something that is illegal in their home state, but legal in another state - Factual Questions - Straight Dope Message Board multiple posters are requesting cites multiple times each.

This amounts to badgering another poster that you don’t agree with, and poor form, IMHO.

ATMB question. Are there, or should there be, any guidelines (not rules) regarding this subject?

Not if the claim is made multiple times, or multiple variations of the same claim is made, in my opinion.

I disagree that it’s badgering. I assert that it is establishing for the benefit of the nonparticipating reader that the individual making the assertions is unable to support them.

On a message board, interactions between posters don’t happen in a vacuum. There is an audience. Insisting on citations serves the audience’s interest.

If someone makes a claim involving a legal matter, asking for a cite to back up the claim sounds pretty logical, whereas responding not with a cite but with a request to prove the opposite seems like a stall tactic.

Poster A: makes a claim
Poster B: that’s not how the law works.
Poster A: (paraphasing) it would be simpler to cite a case where it did happen.

That’s shifting the burden away from Poster A.

That anyone would think that UltraVires is the victim in that thread is beyond rational belief.

Ultra_Vires has been asking people in that thread to provide cites to rebut his argument based on the state police power. So far, no one has done so, choosing instead to rely on mockery.

In that particular case, states seem to be trying something novel, and, as @Northern_Piper and others pointed out in that thread, states have broad police power, so there’s no reason they can’t do it, and as it’s novel, there would be no existing cites. So, in that case, as UV and others explained, you can’t cite something that hasn’t happened yet, but you can describe similar circumstances, which posters in that thread did.

I’m not trying to re-argue what happened in that thread.

It’s not reasonable to ask for a cite for something that hasn’t happened yet, or a cite for someone’s opinion. It is reasonable to ask for a cite for a specific claim (masks work to control COVID, crime is at record highs in NYC, and so on).

Hopefully, you won’t need to be asked, because you’ll make a claim and back it up with a cite.

As far as best practices, I think it’s best to be polite and specific, and even provide a counter-cite if you think the poster is wrong: “Please provide a cite that crime is at record highs in NYC. This citation seems to show it was much higher in 1995, and only went higher until the late 70s” or whatever.

I think specificity in the request is important, because posts often contain multiple claims, and maybe you’re misunderstanding the poster’s claim, so being specific can clear up that confusion quickly. Further, if you have a counter-cite, provide it – there’s no reason to be coy if you think the poster is wrong.

I’ll modify your list with my own recommendation to avoid being considered trolling:

  1. Request a cite.
  2. If cites are provided, acknowledge them and make a good faith effort and considering them.
  3. If the conversation is still not productive (or to your liking), just drop it.

Agreed with this list. It gets frustrating citing counterclaims and getting no acknowledgement – rather, the poster just moves on to the next thing.

I’ve even read a cite that countered a claim I was making, realized I was wrong, and acknowledged that.

I know, I’m not Internetting properly, but sometimes that’s all you can do.


When a reasonable (and I know that varies and is subjective) request for a cite is made, the original poster who made the claim should provide a cite, admit that they have no cite or admit their error.

Certain things, such as twitter, facebook, et al. are not valid cites, especially in FQ/GD. Some posters seem to think that other people’s opinions are also cites. They are not.

When they provide direct factual quotes specifically relevant to the question being discussed, they are valid whether you like it or not.

Other posters don’t have to abide by your specific preferences for types of cites, and if you are going to dismiss huge swaths of the internet just because of your own preferences, you shouldn’t be surprised if your request for a cite is presumed disingenuous.

Withdrawn. Not going to re-litigate it here.

You dismissed Twitter posts (and other sources, including news articles), that contained direct specific quotes from individuals that were specifically relevant to the discussion, over and over again. That’s why you were suspended.

By the way, here are a couple of posts in which you cited Twitter posts to support something you were saying:

So you can probably see why your opinions on the validity of Twitter cites are greeted with skepticism.


Very funny. There are a lot of instances of people quoting articles clearly labeled “opinion” or “editorial” as if they were facts.

That’s a grossly dishonest and disingenous description of what’s going on in that thread. I certainly haven’t been mocking anyone, and neither have most of the people disagreeing with UV.

Stranger said (emphasis added)

A state cannot prevent a non-convicted person from traveling to another state (in general; I’m sure you can contrive some situation in which it could invoke public health or another measure to invoke authority), cannot claim that someone is formulating ‘intent’ to commit an action that is not a crime in the jurisdiction in which the act occurs, and cannot pass laws regarding the legality of actions in other states. There is actually a significant body of law about this regarding liquor laws and other ‘blue laws’ with challenges to whether someone from one state can travel to another state to purchase liquor or prohibited items in that state (even if their intent is to transport the the purchases back across state lines in violation of the laws of the home state), and I am not aware of any challenge that has held up regarding the legal exchange in another state.

I am hoping he will return with more detailed cites.