There are a lot of questions on this site which ask for evidence. I think there's a substantial difference between questions which ask "Is X true/likely?" and "What is the evidence for X?" This is a site for experts, so I think it's great that we have so many evidence questions, and so many people who can answer them!

How should these evidence questions be answered?

Obviously if you can provide evidence that confirms the idea then that would be great.

What if you can't provide evidence? My natural intuition is that if you begin your answer with "There is no evidence for that. But I think ..." then that is an acceptable answer, and that you can continue on with your own theory. You may even be wrong about what the state of evidence is, but it's still an acceptable answer.

I don't think that it is good to give your speculations to an evidence question without explicitly stating what you believe the state of evidence is. In an evidence question that would be a bad answer. Evidence-less speculation doesn't add value to this site, and there are lots of other places on the internet where that kind of speculation can thrive instead. Would it also be a non-answer?

2 Answers 2


Evidence-based questions should be answered in extremely good faith (for me, this means facts from Harry Potter canon or fact-based conclusions made within the spirit of canon) and should provide factual considerations for the OP to apply to his/her question, to then discern whether or not the question can be considered answered.

Some questions simply cannot be answered. They just can't be. There is no factual or evidence-based information available on them. When that happens, you just move along. What else can you do? You can't get blood from a rock, if you know what I mean.

But you never know, so don't lose heart -- I've found answers to Harry Potter questions on SFF.se years after the initial question was asked.


I'm a great believer that the strongest answers are those that can back up every single point made with either a canon reference or a logical argument.

Answers that fail to do either of these things are almost by definition "bad answers", even if they're correct in their assertions.

This answer perfectly illustrates that fact. Although it's almost certainly right (and widely upvoted), without any evidencing whatsoever, it's merely supposition and opinion.

IMHO - In exactly the same way that we judge the worth of a statement in court, unless arguments can be backed up (either directly or circumstantially), then we as a community should downvote accordingly.

  • 2
    I don't think the point of this post is to either call out other users as having provided "bad answers" (I found it to be fine and was prompted to upvote it, TBH) or to yell at us in a giant font about what we should or should not do. I think your first sentence is all you really need to say to make your point -- at least that's the part that I think actually speaks to curiousdannii's question. I encourage you to expand on what does work, rather than what does not. :) Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 12:35
  • I can yell at whoever I like in whatever font I like :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 12:39
  • @Slytherincess - I was trying to get across that a "right" answer isn't inherently a "good" answer, or vice versa.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 18, 2014 at 12:40
  • I'm not sure how a correct, factually-based answer would be a bad one. Do you mean if there are grammatical errors or something? Do tell! :) Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 1:01
  • @slytherincess - I'm talking about a correct but not factually-based answer.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jun 19, 2014 at 4:36
  • So I'm guessing that by "correct" you are talking about an accepted answer? You find it upsetting when an unsubstantiated answer is selected by an OP as the "correct" one? I just want to be sure I'm understanding you correctly. Because, if so, yeah, that's frustrating. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 1:11
  • @slytherincess - I do find it frustrating when an opinion-based answer scores better than something that has references and proofs.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 6:06
  • Yes, we're in agreement on that, definitely. It's patently unfair! :) Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 18:35

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