Our top tag is , with nearly 6000 questions and nearly 7000 answers, many of which are new users' first contributions to the site. Many of these new users need some guidance on how to answer a story-ID question well (include as many details as possible), and established users often need to leave comments along the lines of:

Please add a summary or some details about this story so that we can tell how closely it matches the one described in the question.

The purpose of this meta post is to give us a single page to link these users to, for guidance on how to write a good story-ID answer and what to think of and include. It acts as a sequel to this previous post on how to write a good story-ID question.

What advice would you offer on writing a good answer?


2 Answers 2


As one of the site's top answerers of questions (by volume), I tend to follow a very simple process when answering.

Movie ID

  • Indicate the name of the film
  • Indicate the year of the film (if needed)
  • Link the name of the film to IMDB (or another reliable source of information such as Rotten Tomatoes)
  • Include a brief synopsis of the film, preferably one that mentions the points raised by the OP.
  • Include a youtube link to the film's trailer (or the full film if one exists)
  • If the OP has mentioned a specific scene and you can find a link to that scene (either a pic or a vid), add that as well.

Story ID

  • Indicate the name of the story
  • Indicate the year of the story (if needed)
  • Indicate the author of the story
  • Link the story to an appropriate source. For short-stories, I tend to use ISFDB, for books I tend to use goodreads.
  • Add a synopsis of the story, preferably one that mentions the points raised by the OP (or the full story if one exists in a copyright free format).
  • Mention any plot elements that don't match the description given.
  • Include the book's cover.
  • 1
    I can't think of much to add here (although I did fix a typo). I sometimes also explain how I found an item, particularly if it required some esoteric searching. Also if some aspects of the question don't match, but do match to a similar work, I'll mention the other possible source in case the querent mixed them up.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Apr 13, 2016 at 16:47
  • 5
    Besides showing how the story matches the OP's description, it is important to note in detail every point in the description that fails to match because the OP has remembered incorrectly. We do this to make the Q & A more helpful to future users who are looking for the same story.
    – user14111
    Apr 14, 2016 at 5:58
  • @user14111 - Hmm. I tend not to always bother with that, but I'll accept it as something we'd hope to see in an exemplary answer.
    – Valorum
    Apr 14, 2016 at 6:37
  • @Richard can you make this a community wiki?
    – user32390
    Apr 15, 2016 at 6:11
  • 1
    @PeterPeter - I could, but since it's written from a personal perspective, I'd be loathe to do so without a solid justification. What changes do you feel it needs?
    – Valorum
    Apr 15, 2016 at 7:02
  • 3
    Adding quotes from the story to match key plot points that the OP has mentioned, For example see scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/122613/… or any other answers by user14111
    – user32390
    Apr 15, 2016 at 9:48
  • 1
    @PeterPeter - I'd have to disagree there. I find his answers to be massive overkill in a lot of cases. That one is an especially good example of that.
    – Valorum
    Apr 15, 2016 at 10:05
  • 3
    @Valorum these quotes are very helpful for users trying to find their story. For example, see the bounty reason on the last story-id question I answered: "Nice long answer, lots of details to show what matched, and link to the story I really wanted to find... I think it deserves a bounty."
    – user32390
    Jun 9, 2016 at 4:18
  • 1
    @peterpeter - Which is fine, but I don't see it as an example of best practice to write then like that.
    – Valorum
    Jun 9, 2016 at 6:15
  • I don't see any reason to include the book's cover, except in those instances where the cover is described in the question. How do yoiu decide which cover to show, when the book has appeared in several editions with different covers, and the question does not point to any particular edition?
    – user14111
    May 4, 2017 at 6:41
  • @user14111 - Because the imagery might help them to recall additional details about the story and thus confirm the rightness of the answer. If the book has had multiple covers, adding the one that's most likely to be the right one will likely assist them.
    – Valorum
    May 4, 2017 at 6:45
  • 1
    @user14111 - This is a good example. Many differing cover styles but almost all around a common theme, with a similar pictures, a similar font and a large, prominently displayed author name. Even if you get the wrong edition, it's still liable to help.
    – Valorum
    May 4, 2017 at 6:50
  • 2
    I wonder if this answer could be split up into what we expect in a decent answer and what would be nice to make an excellent answer? I often drop comments to new ID answerers pointing to this post, but sometimes I feel bad because this makes it look as though we require an awful lot, whereas it can be fine not to include all the things you've listed: sometimes a Goodreads link and quoted synopsis is enough for a good answer.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Aug 1, 2021 at 11:18
  • @Randal'Thor - OP is asking for to write a good answer. Now, if they'd asked how to write an adequate answer, we might revisit.
    – Valorum
    Aug 1, 2021 at 20:47

Any answer should include what and why. What is the answer? Can you identify the exact work? And why is that the answer? Does it match the description given?


In the case of story IDs, the what should at least include the name of the work, the name of its creator(s), and the medium (was it a book, a short story, a (web) comic, a film, a television series, a game, and so on).

A rough indication of when it was first published, released, or broadcast is helpful as well, especially in the case where there are several works with that same title.

If it's a part of a series of franchise, naming that and placing it within that would help a lot too.

Written works

For a book or story, that means the title and the author, as well as a mention of what kind of work it is — series, book, novel(la), short story, or fan-fiction.

Film and television

For a film or television series, at least the title. Preferably the director and the main actors as well. Year of release or broadcast is a bit more important here than it is for books, since that helps narrow it down considerably, more so than with books that can often have several print runs and can be republished.

Indication of whether it was an adaptation or a remake can be very helpful as well — maybe you've seen the remake while the querent has seen the original, for instance.


For a comic, that should include the writer and the artist(s), the name of the series, and the number of the issue. Possibly the publisher as well.

Video Games

At least the title and the system it was released on. Preferably the company that released it too, as well as the year of release.


This is as important as what. The querent has described a number of elements that may or may not match. Either give a synopsis, or address them point by point.

Don't forget to address the points that do not match.

Linking to a source such as Wikipedia, the ISFDb for written works, Goodreads for books, the IMDb for films and television, Rotten Tomatoes for films, is very helpful, but only required if you quote from it.


How is entirely optional, but a lot of people have searched extensively already. Telling them how you've found it might help them understand why they couldn't find it and may even help them searching for another title in the future.

Linking to the work in question

While linking to the exact work can be very tempting, it may be in violation of copyright. A trailer on YouTube or any other video site is probably fine, especially if published there by the (presumed) copyright holder, such as the studio. Full films can be found as well, but should not be linked to unless you can be reasonably sure that it isn't in violation of copyright. Some short and even medium length films have been released on YouTube, by its creator(s).

The same goes for written works and comics. If published online by the author or artist, it's fine. Some writers publish online, some do that for old works that are no longer in print. Web comics are of course published online.

The Internet Archive has a very large collection of old magazines, in which stories may have been published before being published in book form. They're a large enough entity to assume they know what they're doing copyright-wise.

Do not link to torrents, rips, scans and such that are clearly in violation of copyright and often hosted on sites of dubious reputation and security as well.

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