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On this question Are Soldiers Overdiagnosed with PTSD in the US Military? there is an answer which I think is of high quality and is valuable but doesn't actually answer the question. It simply provides evidence that indicates the claim could be true and then references a source that states there isn't really enough evidence to say for or against but then even directly states the claim is true.

Now, upon reflection I feel this warrants a down-vote simply for stating an answer without good evidence but to move anyway from this particular case; How should answers that don't fully answer the question but are constructive be handled. Bearing in mind that when you hover over the down-vote button it states "The answer is not useful". So if the answer (or question) is useful, it shouldn't be down-voted?

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There are two questions here:

  1. Should constructive answers that don't fully answer the question be downvoted?
  2. How should answers that don't fully answer the question but are constructive be handled?


  1. Obviously, constructive and useful answers should not be downvoted, they should be upvoted instead to recognize the amount of effort and time the answerer has put answering the question.

  2. As discussed previously in my answer here what you should do is:

    • Notify the answerer via comments and tell him politely that his answer is useful but it is missing some information.
    • If the answerer objects or ignores your proposal, try to add additional information yourself.
    • If you can't fix the answer, upvote and wait for someone to add a new answer.

Remember that constructive referenced answers partially answer the question. Future visitors will find them partially helpful and they will add value to the question. They will also help people who wants to add an additional answer. An answer completely unrelated to the question or an unreferenced answer is not constructive and should be downvoted and deleted.

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From our help center:

When should I vote up?

Whenever you encounter a question, answer or comment that you feel is especially useful, vote it up!

You have a limited number of votes per day, so use them wisely.

When should I vote down?

Use your downvotes whenever you encounter an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post, or an answer that is clearly and perhaps dangerously incorrect.

You have a limited number of votes per day, and answer down-votes cost you a tiny bit of reputation on top of that; use them wisely.

In other words, a fully referenced answer which partially answers the question should not necessarily be downvoted or upvoted. It's up to you.

An answer which is "partial" because it lacks references should be downvoted to zero and flagged for receiving a banner or be deleted, and the author should be notified of the lack of references with a kind comment.

See also: Pseudo-answers are the enemy

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