How to (Not) Use Wikipedia

Why Not Wikipedia?

Instructors often tell students they can't use Wikipedia as a source, but sometimes don't give any reason why not. We hope the resources listed on this page will shed some light on the benefits and disadvantages of Wikipedia.

You can Book-a-Librarian to help you locate other sources.


"In the Internet world, the ease of finding something obscures the difficulty of finding the right thing."1

How To Use Wikipedia in Academia

Even if Wikipedia isn't used as a source, it may still be used to find other sources through the References, Further Reading, and External Links at the end of the articles.


Some articles discussing the pros and cons of Wikipedia:

Sleeping with the Enemy: Wikipedia in the College Classroom (PDF) - Chandler and Gregory, The History Teacher
"...if critical thinking is part of a college education, why not teach students about the nature of Wikipedia like we do for primary and secondary sources and thus help to sharpen their critical awareness?" (p. 249).
A Stand Against Wikipedia (PDF) - Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed
"...the history department at Middlebury bar students from citing {Wikipedia because}...students need to be taught to go for quality information, not just convenience."
The 'Undue Weight' of Truth on Wikipedia - Messer-Kruse, The Chronicle of Higher Education
"Wikipedia is not 'truth,' Wikipedia is 'verifiability' of reliable sources. Hence, if most secondary sources which are taken as reliable happen to repeat a flawed account or description of something, Wikipedia will echo that."

  1. Gustavson, A., & Nall, H. C. (2011). Freshman Overconfidence and Library Research Skills: A Troubling Relationship? College & Undergraduate Libraries, 18(4), 291-306. ↩︎