Online Research: Wikipedia References

Learn how to choose the best websites to use as resources for your research! URL:

To Wiki or Not to Wiki: That is the Question

No doubt you've been told many times by different instructors to NOT use Wikipedia as a source - some may have even threatened to fail you if they see "" anywhere in your references list. But it's hard to pass up such a convenient site!  The good news - even though most Wikipedia articles themselves aren't yet considered reliable enough as sources for a research paper, the References and External Links at the END of the articles may still help you.

Wikipedia Articles

CONS to using Wikipedia

  • Instructors might fail you for using it
  • Content can be edited by anyone at any time for any reason
  • Most of the information has not been verfied by experts and can't be considered credible or reliable
  • Like all web information, can be quickly outdated

PROS to using Wikipedia

  • Can help you get started with a general idea of what a topic is about
  • Nicely-organized and easy-to-use pages
  • Cross-referenced to related information
  • Wide range of information, much of which is becoming more reliable

For more information...

Screenshot Sources

The screenshots at the right were retrieved from the following Wikipedia entries.

Wikipedia. (3 July 2019a). Flint water crisis. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (3 July 2019b). Mueller Report. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (3 July 2019c). Neta Lavi. Retrieved from

Wikipedia. (3 July 2019d). Thermodynamics. Retrieved from

Wikipedia's References

As we can see from the pros and cons list, while you don't want to use websites as a source for a research paper, the articles may help you get started by providing an easy-to-read introduction of a topic.  Even more useful, the articles might have references to sources that ARE acceptable.  Just like with an article or book, you can use the sources cited in those materials to help you find more references to use.

For example, see the below sources from the Wikipedia article on Thermodynamics (Wikipedia, 2019d).  You can see that the sources cited include books (with ISBNs), information from college or university websites (ending in .edu), and articles (with DOIs).  These are all sources you could safely use in a research paper, all located in one place.

"Additional Citations for Verification"


Wikipedia will let you know if there are potential problems with an article's sources. Below are some examples of messages you may see on Wikipedia articles to alert you that more citations are needed or that the article may not be written in an encyclopedic style.

(Wikipedia, 2019b)

(Wikipedia, 2019c)

(Wikipedia, 2019a)

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