New users often give answers that are too short or that have other problems that may cause them to be considered "very low quality" (which means they are often flagged for deletion). People can leave comments about this, but sometimes it's hard to figure out the right way to explain what a "good" answer should include, and it takes some effort to compose a comment. It would be nice if we had a linkable, easy-to-find page on this site that lays out the expectations for answers.
A new user might expect to find this information at the Help Center page "How do I write a good answer?," but in fact it doesn't really say much about how to write an answer that will be considered "good" by the members of this site.
That page seems more like it gives a basic explanation of what "answers" are supposed to be on a Stack Exchange site. It tells people not to write "thanks," to answer the actual question posed, to be civil, to not just post a link, and to avoid answering unclear or otherwise unsuitable questions. I would say this is an explanation of how to write an acceptable answer, not a "good" answer.
As far as I can see, it does not tell people that a good answer should be more than a single line, and should include an explanation of why the answer is correct. The main hint about this is the line "Links to external resources are encouraged"—the word "encouraged" indicates that links are not in fact a requirement.
It also says
Any answer that gets the asker going in the right direction is helpful, but do try to mention any limitations, assumptions or simplifications in your answer. Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better.
I realize that different people will have slightly different opinions about how short a good answer can be, but I really don't think the quoted portion gives a clear, accurate representation of what most active high-rep users on this site judge as "acceptable" for an answer. See the following Meta question and its responses: On deleting low quality single-word-request answers
Could we have another Help center page that actually explains how to write a good answer? (Or edit this one so that it does?) By "good" I don't mean anything fancy. I mean "an answer that is not likely to be deleted for being low-quality."
I know it's unrealistic to expect users will read the Help Center before posting, but I think we have a responsibility not to mislead the few who do. It would also be useful to be able to link to a page that explains the general expectations of high-rep users.
There is a brief mention of the need for research and/or details in the pop-up shown to new users:
Thanks for contributing an answer to English Language & Usage Stack Exchange!
- Please be sure to answer the question. Provide details and share your research!
But avoid …
- Asking for help, clarification, or responding to other answers.
- Making statements based on opinion; back them up with references or personal experience.
To learn more, see our tips on writing great answers.
But it doesn't go into any depth, and you can't actually learn more about how to do research in the tips for writing "great" answers.
Here are some examples of the types of things I am talking about. I am not saying that we should tell new users that every answer needs to have an elaborate explanation or a linked citation. I am saying we should tell them that some kind of explanation is necessary.
The following are real posts I saw in the "low quality posts" queue:
It seems correct, but you could also ask "Have you been to the cinema recently?"
This is brief, which the Help Center says is acceptable. It tries to get the OP going in the right direction: the Help Center says this is useful.
During the operation field A is evacuated.
Again, it's brief, but it gives a definite suggestion and so it's quite likely that the poster thinks it will "get the asker going in the right direction." If we're just going by the Help Center's explanation, it's easy to conclude this is a helpful answer.
Someone left a comment below:
Welcome to English Language and Usage. We are looking for longer answers that include references and citations. If you need assistance in framing an answer, please visit our Help Page on "How to write an answer"
Edit March 11
post a Community Wiki "answer" containing the original text of the page. Please try to reproduce the markup as faithfully as you can. Then, everyone can start editing it! (Be sure not to edit your own post within the first five minutes, else your modifications will be incorporated into Rev 1.)
Please vote for any answer you feel is an improvement, and post your own if you have your own idea for what should be on the Help Center page.