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I have always been very grateful with the answers I received on mathematics stack exchange, they often unstuck me right away. But if the best advice we can give to a student is: "study the classics, the original papers, go to the source", then isn't a reference to a textbook in place with each answer? A publication, expository or new research wouldn't be accepted without references. I don't mean that step by step detailed explanations should by replaced with references to textbooks but I think it will help the OP by giving him the source of each answer. IMO a good answer is an accessible exposition of ( for example ) a theorem in some textbook. Questions about exercises can be answered by directly giving the answer ( does that really help? ) or by providing references to the needed theorems and an example of applying them. - My question is basically a discussion topic. What do you think?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't quite understand what sort of references you have in mind. Can you give an example or two an answers that would benefit from such additions? $\endgroup$ – user147263 Mar 5 '15 at 17:48
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    $\begingroup$ Side remark: if one says "by Hahn-Banach theorem" and does not give a book, chapter and page numbers, I think this is not a problem at all -- entering the name of theorem into a search engine will yield references. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Mar 5 '15 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, if the people asking would just identify what book they are using and what chapter, someone who knows that book could say "Look at page 53 in your book" $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Mar 5 '15 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ Not special to MSE, lots of students try the homework before reading the textbook, and may never read it word for word. When I started graduate school, my TA training professor suggested we try to get our students to read the book first. Often enough, we see problems on MSE from people who really are enrolled in a class but cannot possibly be familiar with their book; for these OPs, that book is their best source for background, answers, what have you. $\endgroup$ – Will Jagy Mar 5 '15 at 18:19
  • $\begingroup$ @woodface I mean basically references to textbooks, Wikipedia, mathworld whatever. $\endgroup$ – nilo de roock Mar 6 '15 at 10:27
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    $\begingroup$ Someone just said that if I want a reference with a question I should simply ask for it. :-) I'll try that in the future because I do believe in getting info from as close to the source as possible. $\endgroup$ – nilo de roock Mar 6 '15 at 10:41
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    $\begingroup$ "Study the classics, the original papers, go to the source" is such an absurdly bad advice to give a student that it becomes comical. If anybody should meet a student learning Calculus by reading (in Latin !) Newton, Leibniz and Euler, please let me know :-) $\endgroup$ – Georges Elencwajg Mar 10 '15 at 18:20
  • $\begingroup$ @georges I can't imagine that someone ever suggested that students should do Calculus 1 in Latin whoever it was written by. - At some point a student starts exploring the history of mathematics, it is inevitable. $\endgroup$ – nilo de roock Mar 11 '15 at 14:58

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