Why can't I use Wikipedia?

  • Some instructors will ask that you not use Wikipedia articles in your papers; here's why:  
    • The articles do not have "authority"
    • The articles may have errors  
    • The articles are not academic or scholarly


  • Briefly, a source has authority when it is written by a person or organization with proven education or expertise in a subject.
    • An individual Wikipedia article might be well written and accurate, but because it is an anonymous, group-edited source, it does not have "authority."
    • Since many individuals contribute to the thousands of articles in Wikipedia, it is possible that an individual may inadvertantly or purposefully provide incorrect information.
    • If no other author/editor catches the error, it can remain for a long time.  
    • Of course this can happen in other sources as well, but most that are recommended by your instructors and librarians are carefully edited before they are published.


  • Sometimes instructors ask that you use academic or scholarly sources.  
    • These sources are written by scholars for an audience of readers who already have some specialized knowledge of the topic.  
    • Again, some Wikipedia articles may contain useful information, but they are written for a general audience.


  • The librarians (and many instructors) think that a Wikipedia article can be a great place to start your research, and (if the authors have cited their sources at the end of the Wikipedia article) a place to find other sources.  
  • However, if the assignment calls for academic sources, the Wikipedia article should not be cited in your article or placed in your reference list/works cited page.


Article ID: 33640
Wed 7/19/17 4:49 PM
Mon 4/19/21 12:29 PM