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What about Wikipedia? : Using Wikipedia

What is Wikipedia and why can't I cite it? This guide discusses the strengths and weaknesses of Wikipedia articles and how Academia can improve the accuracy of this source.

Project Information Literacy: Wikipedia

Critically Evalutating Wikipedia

Look at the article->

  • Are there any Wikipedia warnings about the reliability or disputes of this article? What are they?

References and footnotes -->

  • How many footnotes are there for the article?  How are they formatted?
  • Are the links, if there are links, still live? Are these sources valid and authoritative?
  • Is there a list of references, bibliography, or external links? How are these formatted?

Look at the Talk Page -->

  • What are the disputes or controversies? What are people fighting about?

Look at the View History page to compare past revisions -->

  • Click on different dates of revision to see a particular revision. Then select two points of revision to compare and contrast the changes to the article over time. Has the same revision been repeated? Have there been revisions that were undone?
  • How do you find out if an item is a major revision? How do you find out why the revision was made? How does the View History page relate to the Talk Page?

Look at a contributor’s page ->Click on a contributor's page or IP address -->

  • what else have they revised? What might this tell you about the validity and authority of their revision to the page? Can you tell anything about the author and what topics they might be an authority on?

                                                                                                                                                            -Developed by Sarah Prindle

Wikipedia is Not Considered an Academic Source

How Should I Use Wikipedia

...In my Research?

DO use Wikipedia to learn the basic information about a new subject.  Then use the information you found to find alternate, more reliable sources. 

DO NOT cite information found in Wikipedia in your research paper. 


...In my Daily Life?

DO use Wikipedia to find out background information on any number of topics, it's a place where you can gather some key terms and a broad understanding of a subject.

  • Remember to maintain a healthy amount of skepticism when reading a Wikipedia, as the information provided can be incorrect.  Always double check important facts with a more reliable resource!
  • Wikipedia is edited in real-time so even though there is a process by which inaccuracies are often cleared up you can not be sure where in that cycle an article is. And factualness is never guaranteed.

DO NOT treat information on Wikipedia as facts, especially when researching medical, legal, and financial topics.

Critically Evaluating Wikipedia

Critically evaluating the accuracy of Wikipedia is important for all users.  This can be done individually by assessing bias and quality of the content and reviewing the references.  Additionally, Wikipeida has built in features to aid analysis.  All changes made to Wikipedia articles can be tracked through their revision history.  The Discussion tab gives additional information about the subject and how the information is treated in Wikipeida.