So I want to answer this question: How to look at the covariant derivative along a curve?

The OP asks for a formal definition of an object. I found a satisfactory definition from a textbook, which should answer the OP's question. But then if I simply copy everything from the textbook, I feel like cheating.

Should I answer by copying from textbook? And should I make my answer community wiki?

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    $\begingroup$ You can be explicit that the definition is taken from a textbook, and provide a precise reference. $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2018 at 4:29
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    $\begingroup$ What @Andrés wrote, only I'd replace "can" with "should", or maybe "must". $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2018 at 5:13
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    $\begingroup$ "How to reference material written by others" on Help Center explains this a little more: "Do not copy the complete text of external sources; instead, use their words and ideas to support your own." $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Nov 9, 2018 at 9:53
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. But the OP only asks for a definition. There isn't quite "my idea" to be supported if I were to answer. $\endgroup$
    – edm
    Nov 9, 2018 at 10:19

1 Answer 1


Copying a single definition from a book, along with a reference, is a perfectly valid way to answer a question. In the situation where you're just copying a definition, you should be able to rephrase it in your own words. Then the reference to the book shows that it is not your own idea, and so there is nothing unethical about it.

In this case, the problem is that the OP is directly asking for a definition, so there really is not much else that you can do but to give the definition along with a source.

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    $\begingroup$ For example, here is an answer where the first example is well known, so I cited the original paper and then explained the example that I was citing. $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2018 at 14:47

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