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If OP gets a very brief if not incomplete answer, and then adds their own answer which is a more complete version, who should be marked as Answering the Question. On one hand, the original answer definitely deserves recognition, it is more useful for others who later browse the question to see OP's answer. Should OP instead recommend the complete version as an edit of the original answer or maybe even the question itself? Should a shout-out to the original person who answered in OP's answer be enough?

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    $\begingroup$ Related: Why should we accept answers? The usual dictum is that the OP should accept whichever answer he or she found useful, and I see nothing wrong with the idea that an OP found it useful to go through the process of filling in blanks to provide a "complete version". Sure, a "shout-out" and an upvote for the author of the "incomplete answer" would be deserved in such a case. I suspect the latter author will often be thrilled that the OP took the "hint" and ran with it. $\endgroup$ – hardmath May 22 '17 at 15:43
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    $\begingroup$ "recommend the complete version as an edit of the original answer or maybe even the question itself" - I think those are iffier routes. I should hope nobody here would object to the OP writing a more "plodding", "fleshed out" version of their answer to the OP's question. $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician May 22 '17 at 16:06
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    $\begingroup$ In theory, I would mark as accepted the answer that someone else gives which leads me to formulate a more complete answer. The optics are better, in my opinion, than if I mark my own answer as accepted. $\endgroup$ – Mr. Brooks May 23 '17 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ In higher education (the pile-it-higher-and-deeper kind) that is allowed, but only with attribution. Short direct quotes and explanations of why the real OP was right or wrong. Listed in the bibliography. $\endgroup$ – SDsolar May 29 '17 at 5:07
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If OP gets a very brief if not incomplete answer, and then adds their own answer which is a more complete version, who should be marked as Answering the Question.

Whichever answer the OP finds most useful. Most design and functionality aspects of this site serve a purpose. Many serve to make the process of asking and answering as easy and painless as possible. The action of Accepting an Answer serves as a signal. It indicates that the OP considers the problem resolved. And it indicates which answer a later visitor might find most helpful if they were interested in the same question. Further, if the accepted answer is from someone else, there is a small reputation reward (which creates a small incentive to write good, complete, comprehensive answers).

On one hand, the original answer definitely deserves recognition.

An upvote is a good amount of recognition. A few upvotes signals later users that this was a good answer as well.

...it is more useful for others who later browse the question to see OP's answer.

One should never feel bad about providing an excellent answer to a question that doesn't currently have an excellent answer. There is great value in knowing that users can later encounter a problem, find a corresponding question on the site, read an excellent set of answers, and then understand how to resolve their problem.

This includes other members of the community. If an incomplete answer is given, and another user (perhaps not even the OP) wants to give a better, complete, comprehensive answer --- great! More quality content!

In comparison to the other StackExchange sites, Math.SE is a bit exceptional in that there are many who view the act of asking and answering as valuable pedagogical experiences. For an OP (or other community member) to read and combine aspects of an incomplete answer or set of answers into a single comprehensive account is an excellent exercise in understanding, and fits well into a pedagogical point of view as well.

Should OP instead recommend the complete version as an edit of the original answer or maybe even the question itself?

One could edit another's answer if they wanted to. But typically, edits serve to clarify exposition, correct small mistakes, and perhaps fix a grammatical or spelling error. There is nothing wrong with writing a new answer if there is new content.

However, do not edit the answer into the question.

Questions are for questions. Answers are for answers. Mixing the two introduces unnecessary semantic confusion into an otherwise extremely clean and clear pattern.

Should a shout-out to the original person who answered in OP's answer be enough?

Of course one should acknowledge sources used, including other answers. This is already a fairly standard practice on this site, even when answers are only slightly inspired by others.


See also:

  1. Combining two correct answers
  2. Should I mark my answer to my own question as community wiki and accept it?
  3. Is it the best to post an answer to my own question and accept it?
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