Why can't I use Wikipedia for my assignments?

Wikipedia is a great tool for getting a quick introduction to unfamiliar topics, but many educators frown on the use of Wikipedia. Here's why:

  • Wikipedia content is not necessarily written by subject experts, and may be inadequate or incorrect.
  • Articles in Wikipedia may be changed or deleted between viewings. (See Wikipedia’s 10 Most Controversial Pages)
  • For research papers, you need authoritative resources, so it is absolutely necessary to consult scholarly sources
  • Anyone can search Google or find a Wikipedia article. To demonstrate academic skill and critical thinking, it is important to go beyond these basic tools.

To safely use Wikipedia for your assignments

  • Scan the article to get general information and terms you can use as keywords for further searching.
  • Scan the article for references. Sometimes these can lead you to excellent books or articles that you can find at the library, but make sure that you go beyond these basic sources.
  • Cite Wikipedia articles in your paper only if you are pointing out something specific to Wikipedia.

Adapted with permission from "About using Wikipedia" by Claire Dannenbaum at Lane Community College

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