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Library Guides

Can I Use Wikipedia?

Wondering if you should use Wikipedia for your academic research? This guide explains the benefits and drawbacks of Wikipedia, and how it can be used.

What is Wikipedia

With over a million entries, Wikipedia is one of the most popular sites on the internet. It’s also the first or second result in many Google searches. You may have looked up information in Wikipedia in the past, or even used it as a source for a paper. You may have heard others say that Wikipedia can’t be used for research. So what should you do?


Wikipedia should be used only for background information. You should not rely on it as a source in a paper.

Wikipedia itself warns against citing it in a research paper.

Important  Learn More!  See this link to the tab: "What's Right and Wrong with Wikipedia."

What to Watch For

Wikipedia has several warnings that it applies to entries that have obvious flaws. These can help you evaluate an article. Even if there are no warnings on an article, you must examine all articles carefully.

Wikipedia neutrality warning

Wikipedia no citations warning

Background Information

Do you need to better understand your field of study, such as basic concepts, the history of the field or its most important researchers? While your textbook is a great place to start, the Capella Library has several reference databases you can use to find background information that focuses on your discipline, including:

  • Encyclopedias
  • Dictionaries
  • Handbooks

 

Credo Reference

Gale Virtual Reference

Oxford Handbook Online

Sage Knowledge

 

For help using these databases, please see our Database Guides: Credo ReferenceGale Virtual Reference, Oxford Handbooks, Sage Knowledge.

For More Information

Want more information about Wikipedia?