In the Blind VTC question, @Richard suggested that asking for canon-only sources as answers to questions is "cheating" in a way. I found this to be surprising, as I'd never thought about requesting canon sources as being a form of cheating -- I always ask for answers based in canon or, barring an exact canon-based answer, a subjective answer based in the spirit of canon.

What is the community's feeling on requesting an answer based solely on canon (or, if not possible, an answer based in the spirit of canon)? Is this considered good or bad form, or is it neutral and a matter of personal preference ... ? For example, I frequently, if not almost always, leave a request for a canon-based answer:

I'm looking for a canon-based answer, from sources such as the Harry Potter books, quotes or interviews with J.K. Rowling, or Pottermore. Subjective answers in the spirit of canon are also welcome.

I'm not sure why something like this would be objectionable.

What say you, oh wise users?

ETA: I'm afraid my question may not have been clear. I'm not asking about reasons to VTC, either subjective/opinion-based or off-topic. That is not even remotely a component of my question. I simply want to know if asking for canon-based answers -- as opposed to conjecture, the oft erroneous Wikia-That-Must-Not-Be-Named, or an answer from fan fic -- is appropriate here. That's it. Nothing else. I mentioned @Richard only because his comment got me to thinking about how we ask questions and whether or not it's okay to direct the course of any potential answers by restricting them to canon-based only. Nor am I suggesting placing a "canon-based answer only" at the bottom of a bad, opinion-based, or off-topic questions as a way to skirt the site's rules and expectations. I hope this helps to clarify.

ETA 2: I want to stress that I am not, and never was, advocating a "CANON ONLY" stance. Here are my words, again: I'm looking for a canon-based answer, from sources such as the Harry Potter books, quotes or interviews with J.K. Rowling, or Pottermore. Subjective answers in the spirit of canon are also welcome.

I'm saying, yeah, I prefer an answer grounded in canon, but, barring a canon answer, subjective answers in the spirit of canon are also welcome. I would never suggest or advocate that all answers should be purely canon-based. Nor do I wish to exclude good subjective questions and answers. I'm not sure where the CANON ONLY interpretation came from, but that is not where I'm coming from.

ETA 3: I've changed the title of this question, as the original (CANON ONLY) was polarizing, which was not my intention. My apologies!

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    For the record, I find the whole "canon answers only" tag a bit pointless. If people want to add useless and non-canon references (to fanfic or whatever) they'll just get their answers downvoted.
    – Valorum
    Oct 19, 2014 at 6:44
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    I've stated in chat that this trend bothers me as well. My issue is more about when the wording of the question is pretty clear that OP is really just looking for a discussion, and then after it's been DV/VTC'ed "cleared up" by saying they're looking for canon evidence. Often times, it is some completely unfounded fan-theory that they've come up with. I'll have to dig up some examples when I have some time later.
    – phantom42
    Oct 19, 2014 at 13:47
  • @phantom42 - HUH? The origin of the question is 100% irrelevant. The whole point of close-voting process AND donvote-edite-can_upvote dynamics is so people can improve poor and non-answerable questions into answerable ones. Adding "Canon only" does exactly that. The fact that the question was crappy prior to such edit is 100% immaterial - if you're downvoting/closing based on PRIOR EDITS, you are violating one of the main precepts of SE, that is of voting on the post and not the poster. Oct 20, 2014 at 2:10
  • @DVK I never said I was downvoting or voting to close. I said it just rubs me the wrong way.
    – phantom42
    Oct 20, 2014 at 2:47
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    Are you looking for a 'canon' answer for this? :p
    – Möoz
    Oct 21, 2014 at 2:40
  • You may want to clarify your question, because apparently multiple people are somehow interpreting this as "I have an off-topic question; can I magically make it on-topic by adding 'canon only answers, please' at the end?" I don't see that as being what you are asking, but apparently multiple people disagree with me. Clarification might help.
    – Beofett
    Oct 21, 2014 at 16:25
  • @DVK I disagree, adding "canon only" does not fix every question legitimately closed for being off-topic. In fact, if it does I am hard pressed to see why any question that is legitimately fixed by the words "canon only" would have been closed in the first place. Oct 21, 2014 at 17:21
  • @GorchestopherH - that's because this has nothing to do with "Off Topic". This has to do with questions that are closed as "Subjective" - more specifically, where ANY possible answer/opinion is equally valid (and are therefore not good fit for SE). Adding "canon only" 100% fully removes that subjective quality from the question because "any possible opinion stated as an answer" is no longer valid at all - ONLY the facts shown in canon or logically derived from it. Thus it becomes instantly possible to distinguish correct answers from pure opinions, making the question fully within SE scope. Oct 21, 2014 at 20:22
  • @GorchestopherH - You are welcome to give me 3 examples of questions that are subjective without mention of canon and REMAIN subjective (e.g. and expert can't tell good answer from bad) after restricting them to canon fact. Oct 21, 2014 at 20:24
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    @DVK If closing a question for subjectivity is a legitimate process, and every one of these questions is fixed by the words "Canon Only", then perhaps selecting the "opinion-based" option for closure should add those token words to the question instead of actually invoking a close vote. If you want some examples just search for all questions closed for "opinion-based" reasons. Until you edit and reopen all but 3, you can use any of them as my 3 examples. Oct 22, 2014 at 12:50

5 Answers 5


The Stack Exchange blog post "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective" is, so far as I'm aware, still the definitive source of guidance on this topic.

That makes it clear that it's perfectly OK to ask opinion-based questions, provided they are answerable within the criteria set out in that post.

By extension, this means that in the case of this site, a "Good Subjective" question may sometimes be answerable based on non-canon material. This may include scholarly research by third parties, evidence-based opinion, or what-have-you. All of which may be a valid answer (by the "Good Subjective" criteria), but is definitely outside of the established authorial canon.

It does therefore seem reasonable for someone to request that they'd prefer to not have such material in answers to their question. In cases like this "there is no canon answer" may sometimes be a valid answer, and even that is a useful answer to have on the site. At the very least it provides a pointer to future visitors that the answer doesn't exist in canon. At best it prompts a hypothetical future visitor to go dig out a canon answer that the original answerers may not have been aware of.


Richard's objection was, if I understand him correctly, that the question seemed to be opinion based, until the 'canon only' request was added.

I was the one advising the OP to request canon answers. My reason for this was not primarily to silence the cries of 'opinion based', but to help the OP formulate their question better, and help them think about what it is exactly they want to know.
In this specific case, did they want to speculate about dual-phase lightsabers, or did they actually want to know, and do they accept references to some obscure S-canon source?

To me, answers should always be rooted in canon. The only differences I find acceptable, are answers from canon, and answers based on canon - reasonable speculation backed by canon sources.

  • To me, answers should always be rooted in canon. - Huge agreement there. Otherwise we're inviting pet theories and fandom wishes - and as long as you have good grammar and punctuation, these don't often get downvoted like they should be. Even worse if they include a barely-related image... (cue "ooh shiny, they must be right!" upvotes)
    – Izkata
    Oct 19, 2014 at 22:26
  • See my comment to Richard. I'll consider your last paragraph for sure, though. :) Oct 19, 2014 at 23:17

My issue wasn't that the request for a canon source was (in itself) cheating, it was the fact that the OP had had their question closed for being too opinion-based and had then attempted to get it re-opened by demanding that answers should only be from canon sources.

If I asked

"Why don't Jedi use the force more often?"

it would be rightly closed as opinion-based. If I then added

"canon answers only, please"

it wouldn't be any less opinion-based but it would get around the restriction, even if it only resulted in opinion-based answers.

EDIT - As regards the revised question, the short answer is that you may choose whatever metric you want for upvoting, downvoting and accepting.

It's a purely subjective measure. Basing your responses on canonicity is literally as good a method as any other.

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    Okay, I'm not asking about the other post -- issues about that post should be discussed there. You don't need to explain yourself here, IMO. My question here is totally separate from the Blind VTC question; the Blind VTC question is just where this topic originated. I had no intention of discussing the issue of "opinion-based" in this post. :) Oct 19, 2014 at 23:07
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    -1, for both being 100% wrong on principle (see my answer) AND for even having your own example proving you wrong (Star Warse EU very clearly and explicitly and non-subjectively answers EXACTLY that question "Why don't Jedi use the force more often?" based fully on canon). Oct 20, 2014 at 2:30
  • @DVK - I'm sure you can come up with a better example of a wholly opinion-based question for me... :-)
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2014 at 13:42
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    I'm baffled as to why this is the highest-voted answer. Not because I disagree with the sentiment expressed, but simply because it doesn't answer the question. She's not asking "can I take an opinion-based question and fix it by adding 'canon answers only, please'?". She's asking "[barring other issues,] is it okay to request canon-only answers to a question?". This answer just says that adding canon-only doesn't fix questions that have other problems.
    – Beofett
    Oct 20, 2014 at 15:54
  • @Beofett - upvotes on meta just mean "I agree with this"
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2014 at 15:57
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    @Richard I'm aware of what upvotes mean. They actually mean "I agree with this answer", but, as I pointed out, this isn't an actual answer.
    – Beofett
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:00
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    @beofett - She asked whether it could be considered inappropriate or cheating. I've addressed that point.
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:11
  • As the OP, I think @Slytherincess is best qualified to decide if you answered her question. From her comment on this answer, it seems pretty clear that she feels you did not. I'm also trying to find where, in her question, she asked if it was cheating. Instead, she simply commented that she found your suggestion that it was cheating surprising.
    – Beofett
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:21
  • Requesting canon answers is cheating if the difference between "opinion" and "fact" is reduced to this simple key phrase. If answers are speculative simply request more "proof" before awarding an answer. In what scenario does "Canon answers only" actually change the question? Oct 21, 2014 at 15:18
  • @GorchestopherH - That's the point. If it's off-topic, it's off-topic. Adding a form of words shouldn't change that.
    – Valorum
    Oct 21, 2014 at 15:23
  • @GorchestopherH The incorrect assumption Richard is making is that the question is off-topic to begin with, and Slytherincess is asking "can I add 'canon only' to my question to make it on topic. That is not what she is asking, as far as I understand it. It seems to me she's asking "I have a question that is assumed acceptable and on-topic, but some answers might be logical or speculative, and I want to exclude them by asking for canon-only answers. Is specifying that in my question a problem?"
    – Beofett
    Oct 21, 2014 at 16:23
  • @Beofett She is asking "why something like this would be objectionable". This is the reason why. Additionally, any user wanting to have any form of intelligent answer would at a very minimum have some kind of answer "in the spirit of canon". Would a user believe their answer is acceptable if it directly opposes or is completely void of canon? Oct 21, 2014 at 16:33
  • @GorchestopherH No, she isn't asking that. She's saying she doesn't understand why that would be objectionable, and is asking: "What is the community's feeling on requesting an answer based solely on canon (or, if not possible, an answer based in the spirit of canon)? Is this considered good or bad form, or is it neutral and a matter of personal preference ... ?" The reason you are citing is only a sub-set of scenarios where someone would want to narrow it to canon-only. Would an answer be acceptable if it is void of canon? Yes.
    – Beofett
    Oct 21, 2014 at 16:48
  • @Beofett Keen's answer to your linked question sums it up pretty well. Questions about a topic typically imply canon or some meta information. For example, if asking about an in-universe element of Star Wars, Star Wars canon is implied. Oct 21, 2014 at 17:16
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    @Beofett I seem to recall one non-mundane non-canon answer to a question implying canon, pertaining to Star Wars I think. The answer was very insightful and informative, far more useful than the canon answers actually. The answer showed a knowledge of otherwise hidden information. Given that experience, I'd personally never explicitly demand canon. Oct 22, 2014 at 13:51

There seems to be two main cases here:

  1. Users who know what they are requesting
  2. Users who don't know what they are requesting

The difference here is that

  1. As Slytherincess points out, she often asks for canon-only/based answers, because she has done her research and knows that fan theory, speculation etc are not going to be acceptable. She has a certain criteria for the quality of answers she expects/requires, and therefore cuts-the-crap and asks for canon answers.

    This often happens when a user who has sufficient knowledge in an area, as well as the site asks a question.

  2. Newer users, who have had a thought, or have heard something (which will ultimately be opinion-based) ask the question, and throw in the canon-only request to try and make their question a bit more valid.

It seems more like the 1st point needs to be discussed: Are we going to limit answers if we say canon-only/based?

Well, given that non-canon or referenced answers get down-voted, it's not a far stretch to ask for well-researched answers.

It is definitely not harmful1 to ask for canon-only/based answers because as the OP you are specifying what types of answers you expect. It serves as a guide to potential answerers.

This will all slowly work itself out; poorly researched or speculative answers will be down-voted and not accepted, and well-researched answers will be up-voted or accepted.

1. The only possible downside is if you make the question too limited:


TL;DR: I fully disagree with @Richard. Not only is adding "canon answers only" NOT "cheating", vice versa - doing so is FULLY within the spirit of SE and accusing the user of cheating for doing so - and/or downvoting or VTCing after such edit is AGAINST the spirit of SE.

  • Fact 1:

    The whole point of close-voting process AND donvote-edit-can_upvote dynamics is so people can improve poor and non-answerable questions into answerable ones.

    Adding "Canon only" to a speculative question does exactly that. As such, calling it "cheating" is the exact opposite of how SE is meant to work.

  • Fact 2:

    You should only vote on the contents of the post and NOT the poster.

    The fact that the question was based on crappy speculation and unanswerable prior to such edit is 100% immaterial.

    If you're downvoting/closing based on prior versions - never mind using ad-hominem attacks like "cheating" to denigrate the poster and their edit - you are violating one of the main precepts of SE, that is of voting on the post and not the poster. If the edit made the post answerable, it's a GOOD edit, not a cheat.

    (Granted, it may still leave the question poor quality, but the discussion was around VTC, not up/downvotes. If the question remains poor, downvote by all means. Personally I disagree about the question quality but that's grounds for valid disagreement and not policy).

  • Fact 3:

    The origin and motivation of the question is 100% irrelevant.

    Related to #2: The only thing that should matter when voting to close (or for that matter up/dowb voting) is how answerable the question is.

    Whether the OP wanted to start a discussion or not is wholly immaterial to VTC/VTRO votes - only whether the latest current version of the question is liable to generate a discussion or be answerable.

    Please note that, on a purely practical level, in established large canons (Harry Potter, Mickey Mouse Wars, Star Trek) pretty much any given question can be legitimately answered from canon. So adding "canon only" is a near-certain way of making the question answerable.

Side note for my last paragraph in Fact #3: Since @Richard brought it up, I will now use his very own example to prove him wrong:

The specific question he used as illustration "Why don't Jedi use the force more often?" - while opinion based and subjective if asked in this bare form - indeed becomes 100% fully objectively answerable if you restrict it to canon.

(Specifically, this is answered in Vision of the Future as well as NJO, mainly through Mara Jade's teaching of Luke and later Jacen Solo. There were other interesting facets to the answer, e.g. from prequel novelizations)

  • Note: the answer assumes the context of the question type discussed in the original linked Meta. It does not touch on separate issue of Slytherincess-type "canon only" notes that @Mooz discusses quite adequately Oct 20, 2014 at 2:26
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    My issue was that slinging a "canon only" tag onto an opinion-based question might evade the letter of the law, but ignores the spirit.
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2014 at 5:38
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    @Richard - it's the opposite. The moment you restrict to canon, the question becomes objectively answerable. There may be infinite # of people's opinion, but only a finite and usually small # of canon explanations, if any Oct 20, 2014 at 5:39
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    But to take this to its logical extreme, you're advocating that any opinion-based question can be resurrected merely by adding the words "canon-only answers please" since it theoretically limits the number of answers.
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2014 at 5:51
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    @Richard - If it's based on canon, it is not opinion based by definintion Oct 20, 2014 at 10:40
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    This is precisely what I'm saying. It might fit in with the letter of the rules, but completely misses the point of the spirit of the rules. We might as well do away with the tag entirely if there are some magic words that allow you to subvert it.
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2014 at 11:04
  • @richard the spirit of the rules is to prevent questions whose truthiness cannot be evaluated, not to . This is fully achieved by staying within canon Oct 20, 2014 at 11:58
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    @Richard What do you perceive as "the spirit of the rules", whereby questions that may be objectively answerable should be considered undesirable? I agree with DVK that many users on this site seem to have a knee-jerk reaction where they look at questions to see if they're "subjective", and jump to close at even the faintest hint of allowing "opinion" answers. Look at this question, and tell me if you feel my answer is bad for being admittedly opinion-based (and utterly without canon sources).
    – Beofett
    Oct 20, 2014 at 13:07
  • @Beofett - For the record, I think that TLK's answer is far superior to yours. Yours certainly has the benefit of being far better written, more historically accurate and you clearly know the subject well but that's not what this site is about. His is a better answer to the question asked.
    – Valorum
    Oct 20, 2014 at 13:40
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    @Richard This is part of the problem, I believe. You seem to be interpreting the question as asking "am I missing examples of archery in ASOIAF". I interpret the question as "is archery underestimated in ASOIAF?". You seem to be approaching the scope of this entire site from the perspective of "everything should relate only to canon, otherwise it is 'opinion'". I, and many others, disagree, including a number of high-reputation users who have a much longer history of participation. Unless you have meta-discussion to back up your opinion, you shouldn't be voting to close.
    – Beofett
    Oct 20, 2014 at 13:57
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    I'm confused about why you think adding "canon only" suddenly makes a question answerable. Adding those two magic words doesn't conjure up an answer that didn't previously exist... The objection is about whether the question is good, not about whether there's an answer to it. I don't think that adding "canon only" improves a question at all, personally, because everything those two words communicate should already be implied by virtue of posting the question. Oct 21, 2014 at 8:54
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    They should be going away and thinking about why they asked the question and what they're really trying to find out from the answers, and then editing the question to reflect that. Not adding "canon only" and calling it good. Oct 21, 2014 at 8:55
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    @AnthonyGrist - (1) They should be doing something to make the question answerable. THIS makes the question answerable (not necessarily "good", but "good" is in the eye of the beerholder). The discussion was about VTCing and not subjective quality. Oct 21, 2014 at 11:31
  • @AnthonyGrist "Answerable" or "unanswerable" are not actually criteria for closure. Whether a question should be closed or not is also unrelated to whether a question is good or not. Good/bad is reflected in votes. Proper fit for our format is reflected in close/open. These two concepts are too often conflated, but they are intended to be distinctly different processes. I also disagree that every answer should implicitly be based on canon, and there are many examples of good answers that are not based on canon example.
    – Beofett
    Oct 21, 2014 at 12:13
  • @Beofett This is my fault for using poor terminology, I think; when I talk about a question being "good" what I actually mean is "a good fit the site". I'm aware that answerable or unanswerable isn't criteria for closure, which is why I don't understand why DVK keeps going on about it. Saying "canon only" doesn't make it suddenly more answerable (because the answers existed before that statement was added to the question), but it may make it a better fit for the site (i.e. a question we want to keep open). Oct 21, 2014 at 14:29

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