If you haven’t heard, not only do some professors not want students to use Wikipedia for research papers, Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales, also thinks this is a bad idea.

Why? Well, here is the quote from Mr. Wales himself…

No, I don’t think people should cite it, and I don’t think people should cite Britannica, either — the error rate there isn’t very good. People shouldn’t be citing encyclopedias in the first place. Wikipedia and other encyclopedias should be solid enough to give good, solid background information to inform your studies for a deeper level. And really, it’s more reliable to read Wikipedia for background than to read random Web pages on the Internet.

But, there maybe some circumstances where you need to cite Wikipedia. Let’s look at some of them:

  1. A report on Wikipedia, or how something is treated in Wikipeida.
  2. If you require students to list entry level documents they read (like encyclopedias and other reference documents) to get to their other sources (Wikipedia can be a great source for further reading). Some teachers like to see the development of a student’s research by doing this.
  3. In primary and middle school, it’s more common to allow students to use encyclopedias to some extent in their reports.

Jimmy Wales may not want you to cite Wikipedia, but that doesn’t stop them from making it easy with a built in citation generator. Just look in the left column under tool box and you’ll see “cite this page.” Click and it will give you loads of examples like this, for paracelsus, with choices for formats including APA, MLA, MHRA, Chicago (Turabian), CSE, Bluebook, AMA, and BibTeX. However, the citation generator does come with this caveat at the top:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Most educators and professionals do not consider it appropriate to use tertiary sources such as encyclopedias as a sole source for any information — citing an encyclopedia as an important reference in footnotes or bibliographies may result in censure or a failing grade. Wikipedia articles should be used for background information, as a reference for correct terminology and search terms, and as a starting point for further research.

As with any community-built reference, there is a possibility for error in Wikipedia’s content — please check your facts against multiple sources and read our disclaimers for more information.

You can’t say that they didn’t warn you, or make your life easier. Remember, use it with caution. -ALICE MERCER

Citing Wikipedia from Wikipedia

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Wikipedia: who, what, how, and so on

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