We advise special caution when using Wikipedia as a source for research projects. Normal academic usage of Wikipedia is for getting the general facts of a problem and to gather keywords, references and bibliographical pointers, but not as a source in itself. Remember that Wikipedia is a wiki. Anyone in the world can edit an article, deleting accurate information or adding false information, which the reader may not recognize. Thus, you probably shouldn't be citing Wikipedia. This is good advice for all tertiary sources such as encyclopedias, which are designed to introduce readers to a topic, not to be the final point of reference. Wikipedia, like other encyclopedias, provides overviews of a topic and indicates sources of more extensive information. See researching with Wikipedia and academic use of Wikipedia for more information.

If you do decide to cite Wikipedia, remember that its articles are constantly changing: cite exact time, date, and the article version you are using. Page history and toolbox features "cite this article" and "permanent link" are very useful for finding that information.

If you decide to quote or paraphrase Wikipedia text (despite all the warnings above applying to the information in Wikipedia), then you must cite Wikipedia appropriately; otherwise you plagiarise, which is against academic norms and may subject you to censure. Such failure also violates Wikipedia's CC BY-SA copyright license, which is a violation of copyright law.

Problems with citing Wikipedia

As with any source, especially one of unknown authorship, you should be wary and independently verify the accuracy of Wikipedia information if possible. For many purposes, but particularly in academia, Wikipedia may not be an acceptable source;[1] indeed, some professors and teachers may reject Wikipedia-sourced material completely.[2] This is especially true when it is used without corroboration. Most educators and professionals do not consider it appropriate to use tertiary sources such as encyclopedias as a sole source for any information—citing an encyclopedia as an important reference in footnotes or bibliographies may result in censure or a failing grade. However, much of the content on Wikipedia is itself referenced, so an alternative is to cite the reliable source rather than the article itself.

A wiki is a non-traditional medium, and as such doesn't conform well to the usual book-citation formats. Wiki is not paper, so you will need to use an electronic-citation format instead. The exact format will depend upon the citation guide that you are following, but here are a few general principles to consider:

  • A special citation tool is available to assist you. On every article (either in the left or right sidebar, or under the "Tools" tab at the top) there is a "Cite this page" link. Clicking it will bring you to a listing of relevant information, as well as automatically generated citations in several styles. Note that it is still your responsibility to ensure the citation meets all requirements.
  • You should not cite any particular author or authors for a Wikipedia article, in general. Wikipedia is collaboratively written. However, if you do need to find the list of authors of a particular article, you can check the Page history. Authors are listed only by IP address or chosen username; you normally cannot verify and often cannot even guess at their identities.
  • Your citation should normally list both the article title and Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, much as you would for an article in a paper publication. Every article should be a separate citation.
  • Most citation styles will likely require the full article URL. You can click "Permanent link" in the toolbox (either in the left or right sidebar, or under the "Tools" tab at the top) of this page. This lets the URL include a unique identifier such that you can tie your reference back to the exact version of the article you are referencing. It may or may not be desirable to adopt this approach, depending upon the context of your reference. This lets you show what you saw and ignore any changes made after you accessed the page. If greater brevity is desired, you can use the regular URL, or optionally just the site URL (e.g. https://en.wiki.x.io/ for an English article), because an article URL can be inferred from an article title.
  • The citation style may request the full date and time of the article revision you are using. If you use the permanent link feature, this may not be necessary. However, the date and time of the last revision can be found at the bottom of every page (above the copyright notice).

Alternatives to citing Wikipedia

Information in Wikipedia is often accompanied by a reference. You can use Wikipedia to find the source of the information and cite that. Indeed, Wikipedia can often be a good starting point for research to other sources of information.

Some Wikipedia articles (list) have been published in peer reviewed academic literature. In that case, it is possible to cite the published article. e.g.:

  • CerebellumWright, Marion; Skaggs, William; Årup Nielsen, Finn (2016). "The Cerebellum". WikiJournal of Medicine. 3 (1). doi:10.15347/wjm/2016.001.
  • Circular permutation in proteinsBliven, Spencer; Prlić, Andreas; Wodak, Shoshana (29 March 2012). "Circular Permutation in Proteins". PLOS Computational Biology. 8 (3): e1002445. Bibcode:2012PLSCB...8E2445B. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002445. PMC 3320104. PMID 22496628.


If the topic under research is Wikipedia itself, then Wikipedia is the preferred source of information. For topics such as Wikipedia policies and policy-making, Wikipedia language edition growth, and Wikipedia editorial collaboration Wikipedia is not a tertiary source but a primary source.

If the topic under research is unavailable through other means, then Wikipedia might be an acceptable source. Wikipedia includes articles on relatively obscure topics that might not be covered in much depth elsewhere on the Internet or at a typical library. So a line referenced article such as Siege of Compiègne could be the best information available to a particular researcher. Whenever this situation emerges, the best course of action is to report the dearth of sources in advance (to a teacher, professor, or boss) and request permission to cite Wikipedia.

Some Wikipedia articles are directly adapted from peer reviewed academic papers. In such cases the source page may be treated as any other source, but not the Wikipedia page. Note that the Wikipedia page may have diverged from the original source, so it is important to check before citing that the point being referenced was present in the peer reviewed article.

Examples of how to cite Wikipedia

Wikipedia has a tool to generate citations for particular articles. For the cite tool, see Special:Cite, or follow the "Cite this page" link in the toolbox on the left of the page in the article you wish to cite.

The following examples assume you are citing the Wikipedia article on Plagiarism, using the version that was submitted on July 22, 2004, at 10:55 UTC, and that you retrieved the article on August 10, 2004, except as otherwise noted.

APA style

Citation in APA style, as recommended by the American Psychological Association:[3]

  • Plagiarism. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved August 10, 2004, from https://en.wiki.x.io/wiki/Plagiarism[4]

Note that in APA 5th Edition style, the following rules apply for the reference:

  • For reference books, which includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, and glossaries, the book title is preceded by the word In. It is not italicized, but the book title following it is.
  • The book title appears in sentence case. You capitalize the first word, the first word after a colon, and proper nouns.
  • The URL must go to the exact page that you reference.
  • No punctuation follows the URL.
  • The term or article title appears in the author position. Use sentence case for multiple-word terms or titles, where you capitalize the first word, the first word after a colon, and proper nouns.

The proper in-text citation is ("Plagiarism," 2004) for a paraphrased passage or ("Plagiarism," 2004, para. #) if you directly quote the material. Note that para. # represents the paragraph number in the page where the information appears. If there are multiple headings on the page, it is also acceptable to place the subheading and then a paragraph number within that heading.

For example, proper in-text citation for a direct quote of fewer than 40 words is:

"Plagiarism is the use of another person’s work (this could be his or her words, products or ideas) for personal advantage, without proper acknowledgment of the original work" ("Plagiarism," 2004, "Definition," para. 1).

If the quoted material is more than 40 words, use the block quote format instead.

As another example, the proper in-text citation for a paraphrased passage is:

Plagiarism is stealing the works of others ("Plagiarism," 2004).

APA Style requires that you provide a separate reference entry for each term you are citing in your paper because 1) you must provide a URL for each term that goes directly to the term, and 2) you must provide the publication date for each term separately. However, if you are discussing the "online encyclopedia" itself, not a term in the encyclopedia, you might need to reference the site itself. The proper citation of Wikipedia, the site, as referenced in APA 5th Edition Style is:

  • Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. (2004, July 22). FL: Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. Retrieved August 10, 2004, from https://www.wiki.x.io

The in-text citation formation would be (Wikipedia, 2004).

MLA style

Citation in MLA style, as recommended by the Modern Language Association, 8th edition:

  • "Plagiarism." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc, 22 July 2004, en.wiki.x.io/w/index.php?title=Plagiarism&oldid=5139350. Accessed 10 Aug. 2004.

The eighth edition published in 2016 calls for urls to omit “http://” or “https://”.

Note that MLA style calls for both the date of publication (or its latest update). The "Accessed date" is now optional but could be useful for general readership not familiar with permanent links in Wikipedia (old id).

Be sure to double check the exact syntax your institution requires.

For citation of Wikipedia as a site, use:

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

MHRA style

Citation in MHRA style, as recommended by the Modern Humanities Research Association:

  • Wikipedia contributors, 'Plagiarism', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 July 2004, 10:55 UTC, <https://en.wiki.x.io/w/index.php?title=Plagiarism&oldid=5139350> [accessed 10 August 2004]

Chicago style

Citation in Chicago style:

  • Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Plagiarism," (accessed August 10, 2004), https://en.wiki.x.io/w/index.php?title=Plagiarism&oldid=5139350

Note that the Chicago Manual of Style states that "Well-known reference books, such as major dictionaries and encyclopedias, are normally cited in notes rather than bibliographies."


Citation in CBE/CSE style, as recommended by the Council of Science Editors:

  • Wikipedia contributors. Plagiarism [Internet]. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia; 2004 Jul 22, 10:55 UTC [cited 2004 Aug 10]. Available from: https://en.wiki.x.io/w/index.php?title=Plagiarism&oldid=5139350.

Turabian style

The following are examples of how to cite Wikipedia articles according to A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 6th edition, by Kate L. Turabian (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). ISBN 0226816265 (cloth), ISBN 0226816273 (paper).

Note on Turabian style: Please understand that Turabian does not have rules that cover anything like Wikipedia. These examples are based on "reading between the lines" and assimilating rules from various not-so-similar cases that Turabian does cover. If the party to which you are submitting your paper is particularly strict, you might want to find out if they have their own adaptation of Turabian that would apply in this case. Alternately, you could always consult with the party before the deadline to make sure it's acceptable.


1"Plagiarism," in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia; (Wikimedia Foundation Inc., updated 22 July 2004, 10:55 UTC) [encyclopedia on-line]; available from https://en.wiki.x.io/wiki/Plagiarism; Internet; retrieved 10 August 2004.

2Wikipedia contributors, "Marketing."Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wiki.x.io/wiki/Marketing (Accessed August 10, 2004)


Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Updated 22 July 2004, 10:55 UTC. Encyclopedia on-line. Available from https://en.wiki.x.io/wiki/Endangered Species. Internet. Retrieved 10 August 2004.

(According to Turabian 6th edition, ¶9.8, for entries in the bibliography, "the first line of each entry is flush left, and any run over lines are indented five spaces". This presentation does not follow that rule.)

Parenthetical reference

("Plagiarism," Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)


(Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "Plagiarism")

Reference list

Plagiarism. 22 July 2004, 10:55 UTC. In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Encyclopedia on-line. Available from https://en.wiki.x.io/wiki/Plagiarism. Internet. Retrieved 10 August 2004.

(Indenting is like that of the bibliography.)

The Harvard Journal of Law & Technology has adopted the following format for citations to articles in Wikipedia:

  • [Signal] Wikipedia, [article], https://en.wikipedia/wiki/[article] [(optional other parenthetical)] (as of [date], [time] GMT).

Here is an example:

  • See Wikipedia, Bluebook, https://en.wikipedia/wiki/Bluebook (describing history and application of the Bluebook) (as of Mar. 21, 2006, 20:50 GMT).

This format reflects Rule 18.2 of the 18th and 19th edition of the Bluebook, but uses "as of" rather than "last updated"/"last visited" in the date parenthetical. This change allows specification of the exact version of the article to which the author is referring.

The date and time used should correspond exactly to the latest version listed in the article's Wikipedia history page that states the proposition for which you are citing it. Use of GMT conforms to the timestamp format used in those history entries (e.g., use 24-hour notation to avoid AM/PM).

BibTeX entry

 @misc{ wiki:###,
   author = "{Wikipedia contributors}",
   title = "Plagiarism --- {W}ikipedia{,} The Free Encyclopedia",
   year = "2004",
   url = "https://en.wiki.x.io/w/index.php?title=Plagiarism&oldid=5139350",
   note = "[Online; accessed 22-July-2004]"

The additional curly brackets are necessary to prevent the values from being interpreted depending on the style. In BibTeX syntax, author = "Wikipedia contributors" indicates an author with the first name Wikipedia and the last name contributors, and may then be formatted as, e.g., contributors, W..

Some people like adding a field howpublished = "\url{https://en.wiki.x.io/w/index.php?title=Plagiarism&oldid=5139350}" which requires \usepackage{url}, but certain BibTeX styles and in particular biblatex will already use the url field itself, causing duplicate URLs. The URL field must not contain a \url command (so that BibTeX styles can use the URL as link of the article title, and not only a standalone URL), and in general the use of LaTeX code within BibTeX should be avoided.

AMA style

Citation in AMA style, as recommended by the American Medical Association:[5]

See also

Reference resources
Related essays


  1. ^ Bould, Dylan M., et al., References that anyone can edit: review of Wikipedia citations in peer reviewed health science literature, 2014, British Medical Journal, 6 March 2014, 348 DOI, online from BMJ
  2. ^ "Anthropology 333 syllabus from American River College" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-02-07. Do NOT use Wikipedia or other online or print encyclopedias as a source for your paper. [dead link]
  3. ^ "APA Style Help". APA Style. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  4. ^ McAdoo, Timothy. "How to Cite Wikipedia in APA Style". APA Style. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  5. ^ "AMA Style Guide". University of Washington Health Sciences Libraries. Retrieved 20 September 2011.