When Can I Use Wikipedia?

We celebrate Wikipedia! What a tremendous example of collaborative writing!

However, there are times when Wikipedia is appropriate, and times when it is not.  Below, you will find a guide that will help you understand the pros and cons of Wikipedia.

And if you’re interested, you can also read here what some professional writers think about Wikipedia!


When you search online, Wikipedia articles nearly always pop up first. Do you use Wikipedia? Sure, but be a smart consumer. Consider the following items or watch the short tutorial.

Item 1: Wikipedia is only accurate on average; individual articles can be terrible and just wrong. This is not a professionally edited encyclopedia. Figure out how to check what you are reading.

Item 2: College and professional papers should not use general encyclopedia sources (specialized encyclopedias are a different story). This is not high school. Be smart and show your smarts–use academic sources that go beyond general encyclopedia articles.

Item 3: Does this mean you stop reading Wikipedia? Not necessarily. There are interesting uses for the articles–for background information, for ideas for research, and for internet links.

Item 4: Always, always check the ratings of the articles and check the “discussion” tab. The discussion page gives you significant clues about the reliability–or not–of the article.