You’ve probably been told that Wikipedia should not be used in academic research, but have you ever wondered why this is the case? The site does contain lots of information that seems useful, but the more important consideration is whether or not the information is credible. In fact, Wikipedia has published numerous errors and factual inaccuracies over the years.
Just a few examples of errors published on Wikipedia include false death reports and ridiculous hoaxes (remember, pranksters can easily edit the entries). Here is a short list of some top reasons why you should never cite Wikipedia in research:
1. Wikipedia readily admits that some of its articles are “complete rubbish.”
2. It is easy for vandals to edit the site and make purposefully incorrect statements.
3. People with an agenda can easily make entries appear credible, as was seen in Shane Fitzgerald’s hoax entry.
The bottom line is this: For academic purposes, your research methods are a big part of success. Use only credible sources whose information has been vetted by experts in the field. Refer to this detailed handout, which exposes an error we found on the site and explains how you might use Wikipedia for locating source material (but never for citing it).