Wikipedia: Done as a reference source

Or did it ever start? I think it will end up on the scrap heap of nice ideas that just didn’t turn out.

Consider especially who’s busy editing Wikipedia entries these days: news organizations. Everyone from Fox News to the New York Times, from the BBC to al-Jazeera.

Fox, NYT Play With Wikipedia


And now you can track who’s editing Wikipedia with the Wikipedia Edit Scanner.

Wikipedia has never been a truly reputable reference. It’s good for a starting point or basic overview of a topic and often links to actual sources, but any student who cites it in a term paper’s bibliography deserves the F.

I use it as a quick jumping-off point to learn about something new. I never consider it a real reference work because I know how it’s edited – sometimes erroneously with good intent, sometimes as a joke, and sometimes maliciously.

For example, some time ago Stephen Colbert encouraged his viewers to edit an article about bears (he’s supposedly terrified of bears and brings this up on his show regularly). So his loyal fans went to Wikipedia and edited the bear article, putting in all sorts of weird information.

And yes, any student who cites Wikipedia should get a warning, if not a failing grade. My son’s school specifically prohibits Wikipedia as a source for papers.


At the college where I teach, students are generally allowed to use Wikipedia in the same way as they do a dictionary. In other words, it can be useful for a basic definition but that it does not count as a reference source.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit