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Resources for Using & Editing Wikipedia

Resources about using and editing Wikipedia

Citing Wikipedia

Can students and researchers cite Wikipedia articles in academic writing? This question does not have a simple answer. Even Wikipedia advises researchers to exercise "special caution when using Wikipedia as a source for research projects." [1] When Wikipedia just emerged, the answer from most faculty and departments was "No." As Wikipedia has expanded, and editors have worked to create high-quality, well-researched Wikipedia entries, and as faculty started to assign Wikipedia editing to students in recent years, people are starting to recognize the value of Wikipedia as an excellent starting point for research. But as with any general reference text, it should be used as a starting point to lead you to more reliable and rigorous scholarly texts. 

When using Wikipedia, and determining how and whether to cite Wikipedia consider the following:

Accuracy of information

Critically evaluating the accuracy of a Wikipedia article can be challenging. It's always a good idea to verify the information of references on any Wikipedia article and trace it back to its original source. The original source may present more clues and evidence to evaluate the information, and reference other important scholarship in that area.

Stability of content

As a wiki, anyone can edit any Wikipedia content at anytime and articles are constantly changing and evolving. Therefore, citing a simple URL to a Wikipedia entry is not sufficient for people to see the exact same text that you are citing. Thanks to the "View History" tab of each entry, however, you can cite a specific version of an entry. Use this (detailed below) to cite a permalink to the particular version of an article. Please note that technically it is possible for an administrator to delete the history pages of any entry, though this is rarely done. This then causes a particular history page to become a dead link.

Uncertainty of authorship

The username used by editors on Wikipedia often does not connect to the real name nor credentials of an individual Wikipedian. (See Wikipedia: Username policy) Each article may have been edited by hundreds of Wikipedians. Therefore, it is not possible to attribute an article to any single individual, not to mention verify their credentials. Therefore, using information from Wikipedia requires individual researchers to evaluate the information critically.

Originality of information

As with other encyclopedias or general reference texts, the content of Wikipedia does not include original ideas or scholarship. It would not be fair to cite Wikipedia only for facts or findings appearing in an entry. On the other hand, if Wikipedia is used to identify the sources of the original content, it would be fair to give credit to Wikipedia.

 

After considering these factors, it is recommended that you consult with your instructors and use your own discretion to decide if you should use/cite a particular Wikipedia article. Always remember the major reasons to cite resources - giving appropriate credit and allowing people to trace the trajectory of your scholarship.

If you decide to cite Wikipedia

If, after careful consideration, you think it important to cite an article in Wikipedia, it is recommended that you link to a permalink of a particular stable version of a page using the following steps.

  1. Navigate to the "View History" tab above the main page space of an article
  2. Select the appropriate version of that article by clicking on the hyperlinked time and date of that version
  3. You will be redirected to a page with a permalink to that version of the page. The url will resemble this: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia&oldid=859621522 (Note the "pagename&oldid" before the string of numbers at the end of the url.)
  4. Refer to your style manual for how to include the url in your works cited

Additional Tools & Resources

Wikipedia has additional tools that may also help you to properly cite Wikipedia articles. Of course, it it recommended that the results of these tools be compared with the latest iteration of your disciplines style guide to meet the expectations of your course and/or discipline.

Wikipedia:Citing Wikipedia - This page is regularly updated with recommendations for citing Wikipedia pages, including sample works cited entries in APA, MLA, Chicago styles, and others.

Cite this page - This tool allows you to search for a particular page, then provides citational information, and citations by style. 

Help:Permanent link - Additional documentation on how to find and use permalinks or stable urls.