How to Cite a Wikipedia Article | APA, MLA & Chicago
Wikipedia is a useful source of background information that students often use in the early stages of research. However, it’s often not considered a reliable source to cite in your academic writing.
If you’re certain you’re allowed to cite Wikipedia, the citation usually includes:
- Title of the article
- “Wikipedia” and/or “Wikimedia Foundation”
- Date the article was last updated
The specific format differs depending on what citation style you’re following: APA, MLA, and Chicago style are three of the most commonly used.
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How to cite Wikipedia in APA Style
In APA Style (7th edition), only the first word of the title is capitalized, and there is no period after the URL. The in-text citation includes the title of the article (with title-case capitalization, and shortened if necessary) and the year.
|APA format||Article title. (Year, Month Day). In Wikipedia. URL|
|APA reference entry||Statistical hypothesis testing. (2022, May 28). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Statistical_hypothesis_testing&oldid=1090223185|
|APA in-text citation||(“Statistical Hypothesis Testing,” 2022)|
APA recommends linking to a specific archived version of the Wikipedia article so that the reader can be sure they are accessing the same version. This can be accessed by clicking the “View history” tab at the top of the article and selecting the latest revision:
The date you include is therefore the date of the revision you accessed, the URL that of the specific revision.
How to cite Wikipedia in MLA style
In MLA style, the title takes headline capitalization, the publisher is included, and there is a period after the URL.
|MLA format||“Article Title.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Date of last modification, URL.|
|MLA Works Cited entry||“Statistical Hypothesis Testing.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 May 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Statistical_hypothesis_testing&oldid=1090223185.|
|MLA in-text citation||(“Statistical Hypothesis Testing”)|
The date of last modification can be found at the very bottom of the article (“This page was last edited on…”).
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How to cite Wikipedia in Chicago style
Chicago style recommends against citing Wikipedia as a source. However, if you do need to cite it, the format depends on which of Chicago’s two styles of citation you’re following:
Notes and bibliography
In notes and bibliography style, Chicago recommends only citing Wikipedia in your footnotes, and leaving it out of your bibliography. Use the short note format if you need to cite the same article again.
|Full note format||1. “Article Title,” Wikimedia Foundation, last modified Date, URL.|
|Full note example||1. “Statistical Hypothesis Testing,” Wikimedia Foundation, last modified May 28, 2022, 05:52, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_hypothesis_testing.|
|Short note format||1. “Shortened Article Title.”|
|Short note example||1. “Statistical Hypothesis Testing.”|
In author-date style, a parenthetical citation appears in the text, and full details are given in the reference list.
|Chicago author-date format||Wikipedia. Year. “Article Title.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified Date. URL.|
|Chicago reference entry||Wikipedia. 2022. “Statistical Hypothesis Testing.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified May 28, 2022, 05:52. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_hypothesis_testing.|
|Chicago author-date citation||(Wikipedia 2022)|
Is Wikipedia a reliable source?
Using Wikipedia as a source is generally discouraged in academic writing, and your institution may even have a specific rule against doing so.
There is disagreement about whether Wikipedia can be considered a reliable source, but most academics agree that you shouldn’t cite it in your writing, for two main reasons:
- As an online encyclopedia, Wikipedia is a tertiary source, which means it doesn’t provide original insights or analysis. Usually, only primary and secondary sources are cited in academic writing.
- Because Wikipedia can be edited by anyone and its articles are constantly updated, it’s possible for unreliable information to be added without you knowing. It’s better to cite a source with a clearly defined author whose information can be verified.
However, there’s no problem with using Wikipedia for background information and to find other sources, especially in the early stages of your research.
Using Wikipedia effectively
Wikipedia can be a good starting point, since many of its articles comprehensively cite the primary and secondary sources used. You can often find useful sources under the headings “References,” “Further reading,” and “External links” at the bottom of an article. Look for credible sources like scholarly journals and books.
You may occasionally want to cite a piece of general (rather than specialist) information from Wikipedia. When doing so, it’s good practice to independently verify any information you are not sure about before citing it (also called lateral reading).
Look out for warning signs that the article contains unreliable or incomplete information:
- Orange or yellow boxes at the top of the article indicating general issues
- Warnings such as “” in the text indicating a lack of evidence
- Very short articles (sometimes called “stubs”) that don’t provide much depth
- Articles that have only been worked on by a single contributor (you can check this under “View history” or “Talk”), indicating a lack of editorial oversight
If you spot one one or more of these issues, it’s probably not a good idea to use the article even for background information.
Example: Poor-quality Wikipedia article
Frequently asked questions about citations
- What are the main elements of a Wikipedia citation?
A Wikipedia citation usually includes the title of the article, “Wikipedia” and/or “Wikimedia Foundation,” the date the article was last updated, and the URL.
In APA Style, you’ll give the URL of the current revision of the article so that you’re sure the reader accesses the same version as you.
- Is Wikipedia a reliable source for academic research?
There’s some disagreement about whether Wikipedia can be considered a reliable source. Because it can be edited by anyone, many people argue that it’s easy for misleading information to be added to an article without the reader knowing.
Others argue that because Wikipedia articles cite their sources, and because they are worked on by so many editors, misinformation is generally removed quickly.
However, most universities state that you shouldn’t cite Wikipedia in your writing.
- Can I cite Wikipedia in my paper?
Most academics agree that you shouldn’t cite Wikipedia as a source in your academic writing, and universities often have rules against doing so.
This is partly because of concerns about its reliability, and partly because it’s a tertiary source. Tertiary sources are things like encyclopedias and databases that collect information from other sources rather than presenting their own evidence or analysis. Usually, only primary and secondary sources are cited in academic papers.
- How do I cite a source with no page numbers?
When you want to cite a specific passage in a source without page numbers (e.g. an e-book or website), all the main citation styles recommend using an alternate locator in your in-text citation. You might use a heading or chapter number, e.g. (Smith, 2016, ch. 1)
In APA Style, you can count the paragraph numbers in a text to identify a location by paragraph number. MLA and Chicago recommend that you only use paragraph numbers if they’re explicitly marked in the text.
For audiovisual sources (e.g. videos), all styles recommend using a timestamp to show a specific point in the video when relevant.
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