It was suggested to me to copy-paste my answer to another question which I marked as duplicate, but which looks larger than the original question.

I was totally against this technique: duplicating an answer feels like a cheap way to gain more reputation with no effort.

But after thinking about it, I'm not sure if I'm right.

  • Should copy-paste technique be prohibited for answers, or is it a valid and ethical thing to do?

  • If I post the same answer to several questions, is it a good idea to cross-link them?

  • Any thoughts or suggestions?

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I have no problem with copy/paste answers to non-duplicate questions, but I usually try and reference the source answer. Usually this means prefixing my answer with a summary of the solution and adding a link to the 2nd answer, then copy/pasting the 2nd answer in block quotes below that. –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 13:06
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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you can post the same answer to several questions then those questions are likely to be duplicates.

If you've not already marked the question as a duplicate then do so (either by voting, flagging or commenting).

If this has already been done and the question is closed then the next step is to consider merging the questions. The barrier for this is higher than just closing as a duplicate as the answers to the closed question have to be applicable to the master question. If you think the questions pass this test then flag the closed one.

This is one big reason why you shouldn't repost your answer on the master. If the questions do get merged we now have a duplicate answer on the master.

If you really want to have your answer on the master, but don't think merging is appropriate then delete the original answer. That way if the merge does happen as some point in the future, there's less clean up to do.

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Just because the answers to "What is paper made of" and "What is this cabin made of" is both "wood" does not make them duplicates. It's possible there are non-duplicate questions that have the same answer, and closing as a duplicate just because the answers are the same is a bad idea. –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 13:02
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@Rachel - I said "likely", not "definitely". –  ChrisF Nov 9 '12 at 13:04
    
Ok, I just looked at the questions and they don't look like duplicates to me even though the same answer may apply to both –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 13:05
    
@Rachel - I was describing the process in general. –  ChrisF Nov 9 '12 at 13:06
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Understandable, however as the accepted answer to a question asking (emphasis mine) "Is it appropriate to copy-paste an answer when it matches both questions, but those questions are not an exact duplicate?", it seems a bit misleading –  Rachel Nov 9 '12 at 13:06
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If I'm sure the questions are not duplicates then I have no problem with copy/paste answers, however I try to always link to the source answer at the top of the question so the user can read it and possibly other answers there that might relate to them too.

Usually what ends up happening is I prefix my answer with a summary of the solution, add a link to the 2nd answer to say where I got the answer from, then copy/paste the 2nd answer in block quotes

Everyone once in a while when the answer is similar, but not exact, I'll just copy/paste the answer straight and modify it to fit the 2nd question, however I usually still leave a link to the original answer for further reading if the other answers there may apply too.

However like Chris said, be sure it's not a duplicate first. If it is a duplicate, you don't want to copy/paste answers because its likely the questions will become merged, and you'll have two answers saying basically the same thing. So vote to close as a duplicate instead if the questions are the same.

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Copy/Pasting an answer is a sign of duplicate questions or a poor answer that could be improved to address the differences in the questions if they truly are not duplicates.

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Copying, and pasting an answer should generally be avoided.
If the questions are not duplicates, there is surely something that makes those questions different, and the answer should be written to suit each question.

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