Everyone is familiar with Wikipedia and its abundant use in today's society, academically and in casual life. The question I posit here is should we allow it as a reference when answering questions? It is widely regarded as a very nonacademic source by merit of its easily editable nature.

possible duplicate of Copying from online sources – DForck42 Oct 11 '11 at 20:33
@DForck42 It has different issues than other online sources. On one hand it has lenient copyright, on the other hand it has reliability issues. Here the question is regarding reliability – user39 Oct 11 '11 at 20:39
sources are cited? – user2296 May 11 '13 at 1:02

I have no problems using Wikipedia as a reliable source. According to a study in the Journal Nature in 2005, Wikipedia is as accurate as Britannica. Though editable, most of wikipedia is pretty reliable. My biggest concern about wikipedia is that this will turn into a copy-paste board. My question here

Chris, good point. Though, as a historian, I can say that without a doubt Wikipedia is considered to be a very inaccurate academic source. That's the only reason I bring it up. I have personally noticed in the past many glaring inaccuracies on the site. I do, however agree that copy-pasting boards are likely the bigger threat, here. – Sorcerer Blob Oct 11 '11 at 20:05
@GPierce: Wikipedia isn't an academic source. If you want to use it academically, read it for an overview and go for the sources. In my experience, serious historical inaccuracies are primarily in the topics people get emotional about. – David Thornley Oct 12 '11 at 4:08
The primary reason why Wikipedia is accurate is because of its citation policy. Why not just eliminate the middle-man and cite the original sources directly? Also, while your study is interesting, I don't think Nature is accepting many submissions that rely on citations from Wikipedia. – Cody Gray Oct 12 '11 at 15:12
Thing is, "as accurate as Britannica" is not particularly accurate at all. The Encyclopedia Britannica is not an academic source either. – Semaphore Feb 15 at 8:25

If Wikipedia references to other locations, look those up and quote those.

If it doesn't, it violates Wikipedia's own policy of "No Original Research"

No sir it's not that simple. Unreferenced Wikipedia text is allowed, widespread, and perfectly in-line with policies until (1) it has been challenged by some Wikipedian (i.e. became controversial), or (2) it is about a living person. – kubanczyk Apr 3 '12 at 15:38

IMHO Wikipedia is JUST as reliable as any Stack Exchange site. Both sites exist in the same vein, just the method of information procurement is different.

However, answers that are ONLY a copy and past from a source, without anything else, is a bad answer imho.

Not necessarily. Maybe the question was bad, as in trivially answered by Wikipedia. If the question is trivial, it's asker's fault, not answerer's. – o0'. May 28 '12 at 14:51

While I agree that cutting and pasting from wikipedia should be frowned upon, I also wouldn't discourage it being a source of reference. For example myself I might have answerss that have been learned or accumulated over time, but cant' remember where I learned such knowledge. The only on-line reference that I know of that would support an answer is usually wikipedia, as the source where I learned it is either not online, not available anymore, or has been lost to the annuls of history.


Citing Wikipedia as a source is better than citing no source.


I've read a good number of history books, and I can say that very few of them were written purely as an unbiased narrative. History often tells the story from one perspective. When there is a victor and a loser, you need the story told from both perspectives and few historians can sit on the neutral fence. A good depiction of history would be similar to science... multiple different angles verifying the same thing happened.

In that sense, Wikipedia acts a lot better than any sole academic source. Even if it's more 'shallow', it does a good job of 'flagging' biased answers and comparing different sources for a satisfactory conclusion.


I think that copying from wikipedia is ok as long as the site link is cited. You cannot change the answer to an question more or less unless the history is disputed. Also, wikipedia does not answer questions unless you read the whole article.


I think it is ok to cite wikipedia, or any other article on the web for that matter, as long as the article or opinions contained therein are backed by solid research that is available publicly. If not, then one shouldn't rely on that information --it could be speculative or original research. And if one learns something new in that process, then one should go and improve wikipedia as well.

But if people cite someone's research then they should qualify it as such (e.g., these scholars believe the following to be true[1][2][3]). If someone feels forced to speculate (which is not a bad thing by the way), they should clearly mention that it is their own belief/research/opinion.

A good final conclusion (1-2 lines) would be icing on the cake.


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