When voting to close a question as a duplicate, I have always considered all the answers when noting that the new question has already been answered. I don't necessarily pick the accepted answer on which to base my decision to VTC.

Is this acceptable? Or should we look only to the accepted answers when making the decision that a new question is a duplicate? ETA: And if the correct answer is missing a citation, is it appropriate to edit in the citation to improve the answer?

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    VTC shouldn't be based on the answer, just the question (tho of course the existence of an answer is required). Unless SFF it's doing something really really weird.... Commented May 11, 2014 at 20:10
  • @MatthewRead - given that the exact wording of VTC-dupe note is "This question already has an answer here", you're wrong. Commented May 11, 2014 at 20:30
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    @DVK Identical questions have the same answer by definition, so you don't need to determine the rightness of the answer yourself. Different questions are not duplicates regardless of whether they can be answered the same. In other words: Richard's answer. Commented May 11, 2014 at 20:32
  • @MatthewRead ... Your position, then, is that the FAQ (or wherever DVK got his info from; I'm assuming the FAQ) is wrong in its expectation when it comes to duplicates? Commented May 11, 2014 at 21:28
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    Curiously enough, if it was up to me I'd lean towards "questions must be identical" myself. But the official policy is that duplicates are based on answers. Commented May 11, 2014 at 23:41

3 Answers 3


I disagree. Two accepted answers (for two different question) could be nearly identical and yet their respective questions could be dramatically different.

I do agree that identical accepted answers are likely to come from identical questions but that's not the benchmark. VTC for duplicate should be used where the questions are largely the same.

e.g. "Does Harry speak Parselmouth?" is not the same as "How does Voldemort tell Nagini what to do?" even though large elements of the answers may be identical.

If in doubt, there's always the chatroom to hash it out before dropping the hammer.

  • I agree with some of what you're saying. Taking your example, I would be far more likely to VTC/dupe if the questions were "Can Harry speak Parseltongue?" and "How does Harry speak Parseltongue?"with identical answers. IMO, the two titles of the questions in question from this morning (on Durmstrang) were definitely close enough, because they both were specifically about wizarding school(s). Regarding chat, yes it's available, but there's the regulars and only the occasional new visitor. I do wish more people would chat, so we could get to know fellow users better ... but I suppose that's OT. Commented May 11, 2014 at 21:36

I think that the only thing that matters is the extent and the quality of an answer, not whether it's accepted or even its votes.

The fact of the closing as a dupe merely means that the information already exists and shouldn't be duplicated.

So, if the question is fully and exhaustively addressed by another question's answer, VTC as a duplicate, no matter whether the duplicate info is in an accepted answer or zero-score one.

  • NOTE: however, where the acceptance matters is to the readability and find-ability of the information you are trying to avoid duplication of. Therefore, I would second Jimmy Shelter's recommendation to link to any answer that isn't accepted/top-voted via a comment; just to ease future readers' search.

Conversely, if the existing answer kind of touches on the info, but it's buried deep inside an unrelated answer; or, even more importantly, if the info isn't really complete (meaning, a new answer to a question you're VTCing is likely to be much more complete and better), then do not VTC - again, without regard to other answers' accept status or votes.


I definitely agree with your approach, but if you're VTC-ing based on an answer other than the accepted, I'd consider providing a direct link to the specifc answer in a comment. That way the asker gets confirmation of where the answer actually is (and therefore gets what they came looking for - an answer) and it seems less likely to provoke subsequent dispute.

  • Agreed on linking directly to the answer in question, for the sake of clarity. What do you think about answers that are correct, but uncited? Is it appropriate for a user to edit in the citation if it's missing, to give credence to the answer? I'll edit this into the question as well. Commented May 11, 2014 at 21:22

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