Open Thoughts

Citing Wikipedia

Posted by Soeren Sonnenburg on March 22, 2010

I just stumbled across this blog entry which I found interesting to read.

Quoting the first paragraphs from the source above:

Now it’s well known and generally agreed that you can’t cite Wikipedia for a scientific paper or other serious academic work. This makes sense firstly because Wikipedia changes, both in the short term (including vandalism) and in the long term (due to changes in technology, new archaeological discoveries, current events, etc). But you can link to a particular version of a Wikipedia page, you can just click on the history tab at the top of the screen and then click on the date of the version for which you want a direct permanent link.

The real reason for not linking to Wikipedia articles in academic publications is that you want to reference the original research not a report on it, which really makes sense. Of course the down-side is that you might reference some data that is in the middle of a 100 page report, in which case you might have to mention the page number as well. Also often the summary of the data you desire simply isn’t available anywhere else, someone might for example take some facts from 10 different pages of a government document and summarise them neatly in a single paragraph on Wikipedia. This isn’t a huge obstacle but just takes more time to create your own summary with references.


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