The main purpose of the tag-info (and especially the tag-excerpt) is to help with tagging. This is especially important for the tags with ambiguous name. But usually tag-info also contains some brief definition of the area belonging under tag and it might be a good places where to collect a few links useful for somebody to get basic idea about the subject.1

However, MathOverflow has many tag-excerpts/tag-wikis where the text is simply copy-pasted from Wikipedia, nLab, MathWorld, EOM or some other similar site.2 I think that in such case source should be attributed. (I believe that in the case of Wikipedia it is even required by CC BY-SA.) Apart from that, if we consider tag-wiki as a good place to collect some basic information, adding links to further resources might also be useful for the readers.

Main question. If the text of the tag-wiki is taken from some website, should the tag-wiki include some kind of attribution? Also, what form should this attribution have? Is simply adding a link to the relevant article considered sufficient attribution?

1I find possibility of collecting links useful especially for tags on meta, where a tag often is related to some functionality of Stack Exchange site. For example, if a user is new to SEDE, I can simply direct them to the tag-info. And the comment/answer containing this link might be also useful for other users. If something changes or some new relevant information should be added, it is easier to edit tag-info rather then edit all answers which contained the relevant links.

2If you want to see some specific examples, you can look at my recent tag-wiki edits. (I have added a link to a few tag-wikis of this type.)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ See also the SE FAQ post on tag wikis. (Disclosure: I wrote most of the original proposed text for that FAQ entry, except for the part quoted from the SE blog at the end. Apparently the folks at SE think it's more or less correct, though, since it was just recently officially added to the FAQ.) $\endgroup$ Jan 3, 2018 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ I have completely forgotten about this previous post - which was exactly about the tag-wiki edits which lead me to asking this question: Recent suggested tag wiki edits. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2018 at 13:04

2 Answers 2


One of the reasons to reject suggested edits to tag wikis (and tag wiki excerpts) is

copied content

This edit copies a significant amount of content from an external source. Generic descriptions such as encyclopedia articles and ad copy do not provide useful guidance; try creating something useful to this community specifically, and be sure to attribute the original author. See: How to reference material written by others.

This implies that cases where the text is simply copy-pasted from Wikipedia, nLab, MathWorld, EOM or some other similar site are generally not wanted, even though they happen quite often. But attribution is definitely a must, and the way how to do it is shown in the Help Center link above.

  • $\begingroup$ Note that there are two aspects to the question: the academical/ethical view (don't try to pass other people's work as your own, because that's plagiarism) and the legal view (reuse material and attribute credit in the manner specify by its license and by copyright law). Your "how to reference material" link deals with the first part only. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2017 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @FedericoPoloni you're right, thanks for posting another answer. I'm actually surprised that that isn't explicitly mentioned in the help center article; it's probably buried somewhere in the Terms of Service. $\endgroup$
    – Glorfindel
    Dec 30, 2017 at 18:22

If you copied content from other sources without attribution, you are violating their licenses and the copyright law. You should edit your tag wikis to add attribution, or delete them.

As to how to attribute material, it depends on what the license says. In general, for CC material, see their best practices for attribution (and, in particular, the "Don't make it too complicated" part: personally I would consider a link to Wikipedia to be OK, in this case).

Note that https://mathoverflow.net/help/referencing deals with avoiding plagiarism, which is a different matter: it's the ethical/academical angle of the question rather than the legal one.

  • $\begingroup$ Just to clarify: I have posted this to help with the effort to correct already existing tag-wikis. (And I have already edited a few and added links that were missing.) It was not clear whether the word you in the sentence "If you copied content from..." is intended as you = any reader of this post or you = the user who asked the question. $\endgroup$ Jan 1, 2018 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak I should then mention that there is an exception: if the person who wrote the tag wiki is the same person that wrote the original text on Wikipedia / nLab / Mathworld / whatever, then no attribution is needed. The original author can always relicense their work. $\endgroup$ Jan 5, 2018 at 22:08

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