I've seen a few comments to the effect that answers should be self-sufficient, and should not refer to other answers. I do appreciate how that follows from the site's structure. However, I'm unclear on proper practice. If I'm drawing on prior answers, should I quote, paraphrase, or just wantonly plagiarize?
Yes. Answers should always be self-sufficient.
There a a few ways an existing answer could help in answering or writing an answer to a new question:
You find that the existing answer is entirely relevant to the newer question and completely answers it. In this case, you should vote to put on hold the newer question as a duplicate of the other question and point the OP to the existing via a comment.
You find an existing answer that partially answers a new question. In this case, link to the answer via a comment and do not repost the other answer. Let the OP clarify where the existing answer lacks, and what (s)he needs.
You find an existing answer that partially answers a new question and you want to extend it in your answer. There are multiple ways to go about doing this:
- Include the entire answer (format using blockquotes) in your answer body and link to the original post. Add any extra details as necessary. (Not recommended)
- Provide an excerpt of the other answer (format using blockquotes) within yours and link to it. Add extra information. (Recommended)
- Just mention (link to) the other answer and paraphrase the content. Write the rest of your own answer. (Recommended)
There are no strict rules as to how to go about it, other than attributing the content to the original author and linking to the post.