In the few days that I've been using this site, I've noticed that many questions have answers that feature a direct copy-paste from a popular dictionary. Note that I am discontent not with citing dictionaries in general --- nothing is more helpful than a quick definition --- but I am taking issue with some posters copy-pasting 10+ lines from an online resource, and using that more or less as the entirety of their answer. Here is an example.
This strikes me as lazy and poor practice in several ways:
- A verbatim copy-paste often occupies many lines, adding clutter to the answer.
- A dictionary definition usually includes several possible meanings of a word: if the intended, relevant denotation is not highlighted, then the answer may create further confusion.
- A verbatim copy-paste from an online dictionary is unnecessary, only the link has to be provided.
- It follows that if the answer consists only of a copy-pasted definition and perhaps a superfluous or trivial remark, it would be more appropriate as a comment with a link to the definition.
- Finally, if a question can be adequately answered with a copy-paste from a dictionary, then the quality of the question itself is more than dubious.
What should be done? My opinion is that posts consisting of little more than a copy-pasted definition should generally be flagged as unhelpful, or if the question demands exactly a copy-pasted definition, then users should nominate the question for closure. If a helpful answer nonetheless contains a long copy-paste, I think the answer should be edited: only the relevant portion of the copy-paste and a link to the definition, as well as any explanatory remarks, should be retained.