Wikipedia talk:Citing Wikipedia

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Plagiarism of Wikipedia: why a warning needs to accompany the 'Do not use Wikipedia' rule[edit]

An unintended side effect of academics saying "Don't use Wikipedia in academic texts!" is that at least some students plagiarise from Wikipedia articles, i.e. quote and paraphrase a little, without citing the particular Wikipedia article, oldid, authors, URL. I'm talking from experience from the teacher's side.

Given that Wikipedia is so widely used because of its generally high quality and depth as an encyclopedia, i.e. students will use (read and intellectually benefit from) Wikipedia anyway, the instruction is misinterpreted to mean, "Pretend that you have not used Wikipedia!"

As a devil's advocate for a student doing this, I would expect that the student could say "But I was told not to cite Wikipedia, and warned that my text will be downgraded if I cite Wikipedia." The real problem is that a student in this situation does not think enough, analyse, better organise the information, deepen it, correct errors or ambiguous text, update the info, and/or place it in an appropriate context. The student doesn't realise that s/he is expected to concentrate on the information rather than the particular idiosyncratic style of the authors. In other words, the sort of student who thinks that a modest amount of quotation-mark-less quoting and close paraphrasing is "acceptable", provided that the source is attributed somewhere within a few paragraphs or so, will feel that s/he has to remove the attribution to Wikipedia, in order to satisfy the "Don't cite Wikipedia" rule.

Intellectual honesty, to avoid any hint of plagiarism, would require text e.g. of the form, "As stated in the Wikipedia article Foo [ref], 'the terms foobar (/ˈfuːbɑːr/), or foo and others are used as placeholder names in computer programming or computer-related documentation.'" But the student then worries about being graded low.

Another way of putting it: warnings against citing Wikipedia should contain warnings not to plagiarise from it either. This is why I adjusted the top warning in the article here.

It's hard to think of what extra advice to give students about how not to plagiarise from Wikipedia. Wikipedia:Researching with Wikipedia quite comprehensively lists lots of ways in which Wikipedia is imperfect, and common sense: what is the truth? what evidence and arguments best describe the line of reasoning I am presenting? will generally make it unlikely that the particular Wikipedia text can be copy/pasted with only minor paraphrasing.

Boud (talk) 23:04, 9 December 2017 (UTC)

When citing Wikipedia, why not cite the authors? Why cite a legally non-existent person as the author?[edit]

This article presently says that if you cite Wikipedia, then a list of recommended ways of citation are given, depending partly on the field and citation style. None of these, unless I have missed it, recommend stating the first few authors (or the main authors) of the article. They all recommend citing "Wikipedia", which is not a legal person as far as I know. Wikipedians hold the status as authors and hold the copyright. The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) is a legal person which manages servers and coordinates interactions with the legal/governmental/political/media world. But WMF doesn't hold the copyright for Wikipedia content. I realise that when the first author is an IP and the next few authors have funny nicknames, it looks a bit unusual to cite, iamcool, atsymbol, et al (2003-2017), but what is more important: intellectual honesty or the outward appearance of seriousness?

A practical option is to look at the quantitative (or qualitative if feasible) contributions of some of the earliest authors, and name them plus "et al". Authors who give their formal name on their user page can be named in the conventional way.

It would also be possible to have multiple conventions co-existing: some disciplines have the project coordinator listed as last author, some disciplines/departments always include the department head or project leader even if s/he has not contributed scientifically (this is generally considered unethical, but apparently is common; this convention would quickly lead to Jimbo becoming the most cited person ever :). I suspect that Wikipedians would generally recommend against this option...

Anyway, I'm interested to hear more arguments for and against citing the authors; anti-plagiarism guides (e.g. Oxford) say that the authors must be cited. Boud (talk) 23:27, 9 December 2017 (UTC)

I don't think citing just a few authors would satisfy the attribution requirements of the CC BY-SA licence. When you click "edit", there's a line down the bottom of the screen that says "You agree that a hyperlink or URL is sufficient attribution under the Creative Commons license." The citation styles suggested here all provide that. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 01:00, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
What I meant is to cite a few of the first or main authors in addition to the other recommended elements, including the URL. It's a useful point you make that authors have technically agreed that giving a URL satisfies the CC-BY-SA. On the other hand, there's no legal obligation to give any credit to public domain sources (this is where copyright and non-plagiarism principles have some differences), but academic principles (depending on the particular case) normally say that you should give credit even though you don't have to legally. This particular how-to guide is mainly about academic citation - not respect for copyright. Boud (talk) 02:40, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
I hear you. I've never really thought about it like that. Perhaps there's a subtle difference in that authors of conventional sources rightly expect to be credited by name, whereas Wikipedians know that most sources won't give their name/pseudonym. You might find this tool of interest. It helps identify the authors (i.e., people who have contributed text that persists in the article) of Wikipedia pages. Adrian J. Hunter(talkcontribs) 03:05, 10 December 2017 (UTC)
Nice idea of a tool. For me, Wurgl's tool didn't work - even on pages with 3-7 edits. But it looks like it was only made recently.
The Polish language wikipedia equivalent of MediaWiki:Citethispage-content has some quite strange ideas of appropriate citation (non-clickable links, attribution to a non-existent-as-a-legal-person abstract idea), but it has one very interesting link:
where OLDID is the actual oldid number of a page. But this only seems to work for the pl.wikipedia. I guess oldid numbers are not cross-language universal? i.e. 123456 on en and fr and pl are only related by the fact that they were the 123456-th edit in each case?
In any case, the en.wikipedia version provides a link that provides quite a few statistics, including authorship, e.g. . Boud (talk) 01:02, 12 December 2017 (UTC)

Fixing the "What's wrong with Wikipedia?" link[edit]

The broken link should be replaced with: — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2A02:C7D:31B8:F100:7111:8CB5:1E7B:64DF (talk) 14:31, 12 June 2018 (UTC)


On, we have

MLA Style Manual

  • Wikipedia contributors. "Julius Lekakeny Sunkuli." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 Aug. 2018. Web. 27 Aug. 2018.

Shouldn't the second one be Wikimedia Foundation

Also on, we have

  • "Plagiarism." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 10 Aug. 2004,

There's a contradiction here. Headbomb {t · c · p · b} 01:41, 27 August 2018 (UTC)

Citing WP when writing about WP[edit]

There is a significant, and steadily growing, body of academic research and consequent publication about Wikipedia itself as the subject. Such publications tend to often discuss our non-article pages such as policies, noticeboards, wikiproject discissions, and other "back office" pages.

This is substantially different from some freshman inadvisedly citing our article about the "Lesser spotted bunnywabbit" in his zoology essay. This page needs to properly address this difference. Roger (Dodger67) (talk) 18:52, 10 January 2019 (UTC)

What do you suggest? --Emir of Wikipedia (talk) 17:41, 12 January 2019 (UTC)
I'm wondering the same thing. I'm writing a paper about Wikipedia for a class, and I can't find any info on how to cite a talk page or guidelines page. Aquaticonions (talk) 21:02, 3 December 2020 (UTC)

Merge in Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation[edit]

What do people think of merging Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation into the 'Problems with citing Wikipedia' section? There's some minor duplication but also some unique content (e.g. the 'Exceptions' section) that would be useful to that section and having the info all together could be useful (relative pageviews). T.Shafee(Evo&Evo)talk 00:34, 10 July 2019 (UTC)

Support When people look up how to cite Wikipedia, they obviously want to cite Wikipedia. However, Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation warns those people against it. TheTeaDrinker (talk) 14:42, 23 August 2019 (UTC)

I have merged in the 'Exceptions' section. Feel free to add anything else. Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 19:52, 26 September 2019 (UTC)

Semi-protected edit request on 24 January 2021[edit]

I suggest adding at the top:

I say this because searching "wikipedia cite" on Google returns this article as the first result, while WP:CT, which doesn't seem to show up at all, is probably more useful to editors. I was personally looking for WP:CT, anyway. Intralexical (talk) 04:33, 24 January 2021 (UTC)

 DoneAmmarpad (talk) 11:54, 24 January 2021 (UTC)

Wikipedia is among the world's most cited sources - proposal to reform guidance[edit]

There has been a social change in the past few years and I propose updating this guidance in response. The article as it is now presents two big ideas: in general users should not cite Wikipedia but if anyone does, then there are suggested formats for a citation. Ellmist created the first version of this page in 2003. There was regular editing from editors including Tonei who at the end of 2004 had brought this guidance to a form which establishes all those citation format suggestions. The philosophy of "do not cite" Wikipedia got its current framing in 2016 with Moxy doing a major cleanup and revision. Below I suggest some changes to this guide. Blue Rasberry (talk) 16:48, 21 February 2021 (UTC)

We should acknowledge that Wikipedia citations are everywhere now[edit]

YouTube using Wikipedia for fact-checking

The nature of citations has changed in many ways. Before Wikipedia citations mostly appeared in academia, and citations had design in anticipation of academic use. Nowadays citations get used in many new ways. The major tech companies are presenting links to Wikipedia to 100s through republication of Wikipedia content and for fact-checking other content in their platforms. I show an example here where in YouTube, YouTube doing activities with Wikipedia and fact-checking. "Fact-checking" and citation are not traditionally the same concepts because both come from pre-digital workflows. However, with several of the big tech companies using Wikipedia for fact-checking, and with none of the tech companies engaged in traditional citation, I think that there is a major cultural global change affecting at least a billion people where in practice tech companies are re-defining the concept of a citation to include fact-checking. In practice, they are saying things like "here are the objective facts about climate change (link--> Wikipedia article)", and that this practice has become what society sees as "citation" and "citing Wikipedia".


  1. Change this guidance to give instructions on citing Wikipedia without judgement or advice on the appropriateness of doing so
  2. Briefly clarify on this page the limits of Wikipedia as the target of citation, but avoid long judgement or link elsewhere for that.

Thoughts from others? Blue Rasberry (talk) 16:45, 21 February 2021 (UTC)

Citation recommendations should be for digital publishing[edit]

Besides shifting the philosophy of citing Wikipedia, I think we need an update to how we recommend citation format. All the recommended citation formats here are designed to publish URLs for human eyes to read from paper then retype into a computer. What has changed is that hyperlinking is more common, and publishing is becoming digital first to serve online readers rather than keeping design to favor paper readers. I do not know what citation we should recommend, but I am sure that I think citations to Wikipedia should presume digital publishing and recommend links to Wikipedia articles. We should deprecate the paper-orientation citations because (1) Wikipedia opposed citation of Wikipedia in academic publication anyway (2) There are few citations of Wikipedia in scholarly sources and (3) there are billions of instances of both reuse of Wikipedia content or Wikipedia for fact checking, and since that is the normal use case which people will encounter that should be the primary way we should address.


  1. Present a recommendation for a digital citation style
  2. Deprecate all paper-oriented citation styles
  3. Explore expanding the concept of citation to include credit for reuse of content, Wikipedia as a fact-checking resource, and non-academic citation use such as in journalism

I do not know how to do these things, but I think the current system is not a fit with contemporary society, and I want to be open to change. Thoughts from others?

Blue Rasberry (talk) 16:45, 21 February 2021 (UTC)

Citing sources like wikipedia or "worse" - always important even if citations is critical of the source, try to have ALL cites offer BibTex[edit]

I did not read all of the prior discussion but wanted to cite wikipedia from time to time along with things such as news articles or sales literature or fiction. Citation does NOT mean acceptance of content and indeed citation can be the basis for criticism. All information sources should have a way to reference and a link is not permanent or informative. Someone mentioned social trends but research work can't be a fad- the tools may change for the ease of look up but the information likely will remain the same. I'm trying to get ALL cites to include bibtex links. See the tool described here,

How should a link to a wikipedia article generate bibtex with minimal distraction to the researcher?

Also promoting something called bomtex or "bill of materials" so that a bibliography can include references to commercial literature to order good required by the work.

Right now, I am writing an article that wants a reliable source for a technical topic. Part of that is a table and lends itself to encyclopedic sources- wikipedia is not the only source but for a skeptical audience with a research background a wikipedia link may be suitable to get them started if they just happen to need a reminder.

Research for even opinion or political pieces or sales literature still needs references. Again, citation does imply gospel.

MLA 9th edition?[edit]

Is an update needed for the MLA section in regards to the recently released MLA 9th edition handbook? Yourlocallordandsavior (talk) 06:23, 30 November 2021 (UTC)