Am I correct in thinking that it is considered inappropriate to use the markdown blockquote syntax without the source of the quote being clearly indicated?

The help center page How to reference material written by others says:

Plagiarism - posting the work of others with no indication that it is not your own - is frowned on by our community, ...

But using the quote syntax is some indication that the content comes from elsewhere, so it does not fit that definition of "plagiarism". Without an indicated source, however, a user cannot verify the quote or look for additional context. This seems undesirable to me.

How can one nicely and politely (but firmly) indicate to a user that quotes should be sourced? Should a more specific rule on this be added to the above page or somewhere else in the help documents?

Also, if a user uses the quote syntax for examples, but in a way which could be read as quoting someone else (when in fact the posting user wrote the whole content) should there be an indication of this? Otherwise there will be what looks like an unsourced quote.


Should a more specific rule on this be added to the above page or somewhere else in the help documents?

No. Contributors are encouraged to apply common sense and ensure that their posts are reliable, but making it a "rule" resembles micro-management and will prompt habitual downvoters to become nitpickier.

Without an indicated source, however, a user cannot verify the quote or look for additional context.

I just quoted something, using the blockquote syntax, and without indicating the source of the quoted statement. Nobody will be misled by that omission because there is no need for further context. In instances where the source is relevant and less obvious, users can always ask for sources (as they often do) or simply move on with or without voting the post.


The standard understanding of "plagiarism" is "passing off someone else's work as your own", and "failure to give attribution in proper form" is a supplementary rule used in academic contexts to concretely prevent plagiarism. You are referring to a false implied claim of authority, i.e. "someone else said this" (could be deliberately implied or negligently implied). Both are cases of academic dishonesty, but I haven't encountered a specific name for "falsely implying an authority". See this summary on plagiarism.

Regardless of the label that you assign to the act, if the source is not recoverable from context, a comment asking for a source is appropriate. It might be ineffective, though, because comments are overused and ignore comment chit-chat is a reasonable response. It is possible that an individual misuses block quotes and does not actually know what they mean, but as they say in law, this is a matter of "knew or should have known". Still, one can give a person the benefit of the doubt and, on the other hand, there is the ubiquitous down-vote with comment.


Quotation is not plagiarism

  1. Idiomatic quotes: There are some quotations that are so ubiquitous that identifying the author is not necessary. For example, "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth", "Four score and seven years ago", "We shall fight them on the beaches" etc. The use of such quotes should be considered rhetorical flourish, not plagiarism.

  2. Syntax misuse: Some people use the blockquote markdown and sometimes "" or '' for emphasis rather than to indicate a quotation (as your last paragraph mentions). This isn't right and the correct response should be to replace it with italics or bolding. If you have the edit privilege feel free to do it yourself.

  3. The source is obvious: A quote from earlier in the post, or from the question or from an article linked in the question does not need separate attribution. Context is enough.

  4. Plagiarism without quotation: Plagiarism is the passing off of somebody else's work as your own. You don't need to directly quote to be guilty of plagiarism. Overly focusing on only quotations may miss a bigger problem.

What to do?

This. What to do when plagiarism is discovered

And refer the OP to this. Users are calling me a plagiarist. What do I do?

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