How to Use Wikipedia as an Academic Source

Referencing Wikipedia in an academic essay is generally seen as bad academic practice. However, there are methods and rules to utilizing Wikipedia that can significantly aid any academic research. Herein how to use wikipedia as an academic source will be revealed.

Wikipedia as an Academic Source: What is Wrong With It?

There are a few general problems with Wikipedia, which causes it to be seen as a poor academic source. First of these is that anybody can edit articles and as such it is not necessarily qualified experts who are creating the content. To add further to this, while a degree of peer reviewing occurs, the peers themselves are not experts either and subsequently the quality of article cannot be assured in any academic sense.

The second and largest issue with Wikipedia as a source is that it has no stability whatsoever. An article can change dramtically overnight and as such referencing directly to the same content is impossible. Furthermore, so many authors who can use aliases adding to the same article further decreases Wikipedia’s validity as an academic source.

Wikipedia as an Academic Source: What is Right With It?

The primary attribute that Wikipedia really has going for it is an extremely large volume of information summarized as far as possible whilst also being easy to read. Wikipedia is truly an incredible source of information and is surprisingly reliable given its method of acquiring the information.

The secondary attribute that Wikipedia has going for it is that the articles are constantly updated and can be very up to date. This can even go so far that the articles can be more up to date than similar textbook articles in current academic use.

Wikipedia as an Academic Source: How to use it?

Firstly, citing Wikipedia directly is not the way to use Wikipedia as a source and will result in poor grades, not to mention is poor academic practice. Despite this, Wikipedia can be used as something of a gateway to other sources. How this works is that you look up a topic on Wikipedia and give it a brief read until you find the information you need, then trace the references to the bottom of the page where the original sources are listed. Often, these original sources are in the forms of books or journal articles complete with precise page number. As such, you can look up a topic on Wikipedia to find other more reliable sources that deliver the same information. In almost all cases the information is near identical and both are as accurate as each other, but one is an acceptable academic source and can hence be used.

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