A few hours ago, I commented on a question with a simple example for OP. It was a partial answer, with no evidence, no research, et cetera. I was told that I should refrain from answering in the comments.

More recently, an OP asked whether certain studies had taken place. I quoted a lengthy but terse summary from a scholarly paper, listed the papers that that summary referenced, and then linked to the aforementioned paper. I was told I should have added it as a comment.

On Stackoverflow, I provide "answers" in comments all the time. Sometimes the question has been asked a million times already, but more often I simply don't have the time to do the research to provide a solid, filled-out answer (like in the first case above). My comment can provide a launch pad for OP to go help himself, if you will. Most of the time, I have no intention of ever coming back to the question to give a full answer - I'm too busy.

Also on stackoverflow, "link only" answers are discouraged. Instead, users are supposed to link to the source page and provide relevant quotes from the source in case the link dies. This type of answer is very common, even without any extra input, and I've never seen it frowned upon. In my particular case, it was pretty much what OP asked for.

What is the dividing line between a comment and an answer? And if there are sources with a good answer outside of this site, is it OK to link to them and provide the relevant snippets, or should you always provide your own thoughts as well?

  • For what it's worth, I thought your answer to my question was very good. I asked for studies and you delivered generously. Apr 6, 2016 at 22:26

2 Answers 2


Comments should be constructive and help improve posts, not answer the question. They could contain some thoughts or ideas but should not be made to actually answer the question. Comments are subject to removal or replacement so answers should be posted. These can hold your thoughts and ideas about the post as long they are on-topic and about a post or a response to another comment.

Answers are attempts to answer and solve the OP's question(s). There is no needless/extra commentary. They should not be used in response of other comments or used as a comment due to lack of rep. Answers can contain links from outside sources, but should explain them/post the important parts just in case the page cannot be accessed or can be cumbersome in revealing the necessary information.


Comments are temporary, answers are permanent.

Basically, comments are "fixit" suggestions. But an answer is an actual response to the question. If your post "hints at" or "suggests" a response, it should be a comment. But if it is an actual response, it should be an answer.

A "link only" is a "hint." But a link with followup commentary is an answer.

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