Should College Students Cite Wikipedia in their Academic Papers?

Written by Amit Agarwal on Feb 3, 2009

Stephen Colbert of the tongue-in-cheek Comedy Central show once made this remark on Wikipedia – "any user can change any entry, and if enough other users agree with them, it becomes true." Here’s a video from the same show where Colbert introduced us to a new word – Wikiality.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has also discouraged college students in the past from quoting or citing Wikipedia in academic papers. His remarks say that he gets about 10 emails a week from students who say – "I got a grade F on my paper because I cited Wikipedia and the information turned out to be wrong".

But at the same time, Jimmy encourages younger (school) students to cite Wikipedia as a source though he admits that the encyclopedia website lacks "the authority to be used as a citeable source for college-aged and university students."

Now in a possible bid to convince students not to take information in Wikipedia too seriously, The Paul Robeson Library at Rutgers University has created a short presentation that highlights some of the known problems with Wikipedia. [via]

The video clearly doesn’t imply that (college) students should completely ignore Wikipedia. Almost every Wikipedia entry has external links in the references sections and lot of these links actually point to very credible sources that you can safely cite in your academic work.

Also check out some Wikipedia Tips & Tricks.

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