Wiki World

Sorry, Students: Even Jimmy Wales Agrees You Shouldn’t Cite Wikipedia in That Term Paper

Ya burnt.
 Sorry, Students: Even Jimmy Wales Agrees You Shouldnt Cite Wikipedia in That Term Paper

Mr. Wales (Photo: Quora)

It’s a widely-accepted adage passed down from class to class that citing Wikipedia in a paper is not just lazy, it’s unacceptable. This reporter had a high school teacher who insisted she’d outright fail us if she found us even using Wikipedia to glean information about a paper topic. Granted, back then Wikipedia wasn’t the well-respected bastion of crowd-sourced facts it is today, but still: citing the Internet’s favorite encyclopedia was–and is–frowned upon.

It seems that even Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales agrees with this nugget of wisdom. In a recent Quora thread asking what Mr. Wales thought of professors saying Wikipedia isn’t a “viable source,” Mr. Wales cut the BS and agreed with your crochety 10th grade teacher. Sorry, kids.

Mr. Wales wrote:

if the Professor has a more nuanced view that Wikipedia should not be cited “as a source” by university students then I agree completely!  I think the same thing about citing Britannica or any other encyclopedia.  Citing an encyclopedia for an academic paper at the University level is not appropriate – you aren’t 12 years old any more, it’s time to step up your game and do research in original sources.

To be fair, Mr. Wales is speaking specifically about university papers, so maybe you lucky high schoolers still have a few good years of Wikipedia sourcing ahead of you.

Mr. Wales also clarified that telling students to not use Wikipedia at all is ” silly and naive,” as the service provides great preliminary information.

“Once you’ve read a few relevant Wikipedia entries on a topic, you should be well armed to start digging in to primary materials,” Mr. Wales concluded.

Primary materials. He means Google, right?

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com