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FAQ on Community Standard for Answers

I am a new user here on Economics.SE. What do I need to know about writing an answer here?

Welcome to Economics: Stack Exchange. Economics:SE is a question and answer site for those who study, teach, research and apply economics and econometrics. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about economics.

Economics:SE is Different

Economics:SE different to many online Q&A sites and forums (such as mailing lists, bulletin boards, and the commenting systems on blogs.) It is also fairly different to many other non-science web sites in the Stack Exchange family, such as Stack Overflow, that you may be familiar with. As a result, the Economics.SE community can appear to be a little demanding on new users. Many — perhaps even most — first time users are surprised when their contributions are judged against an unexpectedly high set of standards. We urge you not to be disheartened by this. Have a look around, and you will quickly understand how we work. We hope that you will soon appreciate the value that these standards bring in ensuring that the answers on Economics:SE are of very high quality and reliability.

These standards can be summarized as simply as: "Back it up!" This means that answers on this site have to be supported either by references to reputable and/or scholarly sources or by formal (mathematical) model or by sharing empirical results backed up by replicable example of code and data.

1. Answers That Need References

The biggest surprise to new users may be our insistence on references in the answers. Many forums will appear to simply accept at face-value the word of a random internet denizen. Here, we expect to be able to independently check what you are saying, as we want to chase down the evidence, rather than relying on authority or personal expertise. You should expect that people will actually verify whether your references say what you claim they say. Ideally, we would like to see links to peer-reviewed evidence. This makes writing an answer harder, but the good answers are appreciated much more.

To be more specific, answer that:

  • contains a claim of an empirical or theoretical nature that concerns primarily with inferred information (i.e. information obtained as a result of some empirical or theoretical analyses), the sources cited must also be reputable and scholarly source;

  • addresses a data inquiry or data request, it must provide links or references to the data or to a data codebook or data guide;

  • claims about factual information (e.g. "Event X happened" or "So-and-so said this") be supported by reputable (or reputable and scholarly) sources.

What is reputable and scholarly source?

A source is reputable if its publisher or author(s) have the reputation within the economics profession for maintaining high standards of fact-checking, accountability, ethical reporting or production of high quality scholarly or professional work related to economics.

A source is scholarly if its publication requires a peer-review process.

Reputable and scholarly sources are:

a) peer reviewed articles published in reputable journals (i.e. predatory journals are not allowed, if in doubt refer to Scimago Journal & Country Rank of journals in economics or other fields).

b) peer reviewed handbooks or books that could be cited in reputable journals (but not undergraduate textbooks, save for circumstances mentioned under "Are There Any Exemptions?").

c) curated working paper series (e.g. NBER or MPRA that undergo limited peer review but not SSRN which does not - with exception of SSRN articles from authors affiliated reputable high ranking university; please refer to top 200 universities in QS Economics & Econometrics ranking).

d) technical reports produced by widely recognized government or supranational organization which specialize or heavily participate economics research (e.g. IMF, World Bank, ECB, BoE, Fed, OECD etc.).

What is only reputable source?

a) News articles (but NOT opinion pieces) in a respectable news outlet such as Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg, etc.

Does that mean that popular books or blogs from economists are not allowed on this site?

No, but these do not count as a support for an independent claim. You should feel free to quote or use material from these and reference them but they should not be the only sources used to back up a claim. For example, if you think that certain blog provides excellent intuition behind a certain result you can use reputable and scholarly sources as a support for the result itself and blog as a source for intuitive explanation.

2. Answers That are Supported by Theoretical Model

These are answers supported by mathematical argumentation and derivation from certain premises. You should still provide reference for the validity of premises unless they fall under exceptions listed under "Are There Any Exemptions?" or if question requests you to use certain premises (please note that graphical analysis, done rigorously, is also form of mathematical analysis e.g. supply-demand charts etc).

3. Answers That are Supported by Empirical Model/Estimation

These answers should be explicit about functional form of their model and provide access to replicable code and data. Note code and data can be provided via link to external sites (such as GitHub) or link to external dataset (unless user combined several dataset or manipulated data in a way not reflected in the code).

Are There Any Exemptions?

Yes there are few exceptions from the rules above:

  • Common knowledge. What is common knowledge? Common knowledge is a knowledge that everyone or virtually everyone knows. Examples of common knowledge include: "Canada is country in North America", "USD is currency of USA", "1 is an odd number". Remember: whenever in doubt whether your statement is common knowledge, please follow the rules listed in previous sections!

  • Common knowledge in economics. What is common knowledge in economics? It is a knowledge that anyone who ever studied economics 101 should know. It is general knowledge you would find in introductory economics texts such as Samuelson: Economics, Mankiw Principles of Economics, Krugman: Economics for AP and so on... (e.g. statements like 'profit maximizing monopoly will produce quantity at a point where marginal revenue equals marginal cost'). Remember: whenever in doubt whether your statement or claim is common knowledge in economics, please follow the rules listed in previous sections! (Note: you can provide citations to introductory economics texts as a proof of claim being common knowledge, if challenged).

  • Common knowledge in mathematics, statistics & econometrics. What is common knowledge in in mathematics, statistics & econometrics? It is a knowledge that anyone who ever studied in mathematics, statistics & econometrics 101 should know. It is general knowledge you would find in introductory texts such as Sydsaeter et al: Essential Mathematics for Economic Analysis or Newbold et al: Statistics for Economics and Business or Stock and Watson Introduction to Econometrics etc... Remember: whenever in doubt whether your statement or claim is common knowledge in mathematics, statistics & econometrics, please follow the rules listed in previous sections! (Note: you can provide citations to introductory texts as a proof of claim being common knowledge, if challenged).

  • When you are writing an answer for question with tag references are encouraged but not required. Note: tag should not be abused and only used for informal questions about workings or practices within economics profession. Repeated abuses of tag after warning might result in moderator intervention.

  • When you are writing an answer for question with tag and original poster specifies that they are looking for a reference to literature not mentioned in the previous section.

What Happens if I do not Follow These Rules?

Your contributions can get flagged and receive moderator post notice

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Answers that are at least 3 days old and are still not backed up will be deleted.

What Should I do if I See an Answer That does not Follow These Rules?

Please consider either:

  1. Edit the answer and add missing sources if you know sources that would support the answer.

  2. flag the answer using:

  • low quality flag

or

  • needs moderator intervention flag and write in "needs support/references/sources" or an equivalent of that (feel free to specify which paragraphs lack sources).

I Flagged Old Question for Lack of Sources and the Flag was Declined, What is Going on?

We implemented this policy on 3/27/2021. Previously, we only encouraged the 'back it up!' principle but did not enforced it.

As a result this site might have some old but great answers that do not fully comply with these rules. While we would ideally want to bring these old answers to our current standards, some of the past users might no longer be active and it would not be fair to delete their great contributions.

Consequently, moderators reserve right to apply the 'back it up!' policy on case by case basis for any answer posted before 3/27/2021 (unless the post already received post notice in the past).

However, you should still feel free to edit these old answers and add sources that support the answer.

Conclusion

If you never visited Economics:SE these rules might seem a little bit demanding for an internet site. However, if you stay with us for a bit you will see that we take economics seriously and provide great answers and thoughtful answers. If you will stay with us longer, you will soon start to be disappointed that other forums don't demand the same standards.

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