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What is the policy on this?

On one hand, they are technically "correct".

On the other, I do not feel that they add much to the site itself. What if the link one day goes down?

Should this answer be rewarded/picked over an answer that actually explains the answer to the question in the answer itself? One that has thought and time put into it? Possibly one that personally addresses the issues that the asker specifically raises at a finer point than the broad question? At the tone/level that the asker appears to be asking the question at?

Perhaps they should even quote some relevant parts of the paper.

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    $\begingroup$ To be fair, if the question contains no detail, then one shouldn't be obligated to answer with more detail. We should emphasize asking good questions. The StackExchange software takes care of answer quality much better than question quality. $\endgroup$ – 97832123 Jul 23 '10 at 6:30
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If you are simply providing a link and don't know if it answers the exact questions, you should probably use a comment. However, if an answer is simply a link to a paper that perfectly answers the question given, I would upvote it. Of course, it is much better to at least summarise the proof than give a raw link.

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    $\begingroup$ I would add that a link to a published paper should include a full citation, as this should (in principle) be immune to link rot. For arXiv preprints, give the arXiv id. Also, a DOI link is probably better than a direct link to the journal's web site. $\endgroup$ – Nate Eldredge Feb 9 '12 at 18:26
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I think that the answer should contain enough information to be an 'answer' to the question as asked. It is appropriate to link to a paper if you think that the questioner (or anyone else reading) might benefit from having material that expands on the complete answer that you gave. Additional examples, applications, historical background/motivation, etc.

Another case would be when a real answer would be too long for this site. In such a case, I think a sketch of proof (or equivalent) is still called for.

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They're fine, but don't upvote them if you haven't read enough of the link to see that they answer the question.

It's perfectly legitimate to summarise someone else's link (with attribution), and these summaries make better accepted answers than an unannotated link.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think that just a link is worth an upvote even after reading the paper. I think the best use of the site is when people write answers in their own words rather than simply giving links. In a few cases the detailed proof may be better left in the paper, but ''some'' remarks are still necessary for a good answer. $\endgroup$ – Carl Mummert Feb 9 '12 at 14:20
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My opinion is that people shouldn't ask questions that they could answer quickly and easily with google...

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  • $\begingroup$ What about a question that is not answerable quickly through google? $\endgroup$ – Justin L. Jul 21 '10 at 0:14
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    $\begingroup$ Then I think you're right that adding a little commentary to the link is better practice. $\endgroup$ – Noah Snyder Jul 21 '10 at 0:16
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    $\begingroup$ I don't see any value in rejecting questions because they are googlable. Unless, of course, you meant things like 'what is 15 lbs in kg' that google calculator just solves for you. In which case I would say that the same should go for wolfram too. $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Jul 21 '10 at 0:29
  • $\begingroup$ Also remember the questioner and the intended audience. If a paper (even if returned by a Google search) answers the question but the questioner is unlikely to understand it, then posting a link to it is not terribly helpful. $\endgroup$ – Simon Nickerson Jul 21 '10 at 6:15
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't limit what should or shouldn't ask, unless in extreme cases like @Kaestur's example. Don't forget that you might be able to Google things that others can't, because they don't know the terminology or would't understand the answers. $\endgroup$ – Edan Maor Jul 21 '10 at 7:17
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    $\begingroup$ Also, if we answer questions that are googleable, then eventually, when someone types that question into google, the math.stackexchange page full of correct and complete answers will be the second hit! (Sadly, wikipedia probably has too much inertia to dislodge.) $\endgroup$ – Larry Wang Jul 24 '10 at 1:46
  • $\begingroup$ Sometimes Google is not so helpful. Consider this question: math.stackexchange.com/questions/105786/… . If you Google "Generalized Convex Hull the result is some 60,000 scholarly articles. The first four or five pages seem to consist mostly of numerical analysis type articles. There does not seem to be anything analogous to going from metric spaces to topological spaces. $\endgroup$ – Jay Feb 10 '12 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ You seem to forget that asking a good question is often a non-trivial task. Suppose you happened to come up with a good question. So you googled it and found a good answer. Suppose you want to share this wonderful results with MSE members. Should your question be forbidden? $\endgroup$ – Makoto Kato Dec 30 '13 at 7:23
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I think it's ok, but not worth an upvote. It's also frustrating to find links to papers that are not available for free. People without access to a university library can't use that at all without spending X [choose your currency] to get it. A poor guy I recently of, used M.SE over his mobile somewhere in africa. What would he do with such an answer? Probably downvote.

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