How to cite Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a useful source of background information that students often use in the early stages of research. However, when you’re writing your paper, it’s usually better to seek out a more reliable source and cite that instead.
If you’re sure you want to cite Wikipedia, make sure to correctly format the citation according to the citation style you’re following. There are many different styles of citation: APA, MLA, and Chicago style are three of the most commonly used.
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 (shortened if necessary) and the year.
|Format||Article title. (Year, Month Day). In Wikipedia. URL|
|Reference list||Evolutionary history of life. (2020, October 16). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Evolutionary_history_of_life&oldid=983803356|
|In-text citation||(“Evolutionary history,” 2020)|
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.
|Format||“Article Title.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, date of last modification, URL.|
|Works Cited||“Evolutionary History of Life.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Nov. 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_history_of_life.|
|In-text citation||(“Evolutionary History”)|
The date of last modification can be found at the very bottom of the article (“This page was last edited on…”).
How to cite Wikipedia in Chicago style
In Chicago style, Wikipedia can be cited informally in the text:
In author-date style, a parenthetical citation appears in the text, and full details are given in the reference list.
|Format||Wikipedia. Year. “Article Title.” Last modified Date. URL.|
|Reference list||Wikipedia. 2019. “Evolutionary History of Life.” Last modified November 13, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_history_of_life.|
|In-text citation||(Wikipedia 2019)|
Notes and bibliography
In this style, you cite sources in footnotes or endnotes. Use a full note for the first citation of a particular page and short notes for any subsequent citations of the same page.
|Full note format||1. “Article title,” Wikipedia, last modified Date, URL.|
|Full note example||1. “Evolutionary History of Life,” Wikipedia, last modified November 13, 2019, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_history_of_life.|
|Short note format||1. Wikipedia, “Shortened Article Title.”|
|Short note example||1. Wikipedia, “Evolutionary History.”|
|Bibliography format||Wikipedia. “Article Title.” Last modified Date. URL.|
|Bibliography example||Wikipedia. “Evolutionary History of Life.” Last modified November 13, 2019. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolutionary_history_of_life.|
Should you cite Wikipedia?
Using Wikipedia as a source is generally discouraged in academic writing, and your institution may even have a specific rule against doing so.
Why is Wikipedia not considered a reliable source?
Wikipedia is a compilation of information from various places rather than an original source in itself; in general, only primary and secondary sources should be cited in an academic paper. In addition, Wikipedia pages can be edited by anyone, which makes it difficult to determine the accuracy of the information they contain.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t use the site at all. Wikipedia is often a good starting point for your research, since most of its articles comprehensively cite the original sources of information.
How to use Wikipedia wisely
You can often find useful sources through sections like references, further reading, and external links, located at the bottom of a Wikipedia article. Look for reliable sources such as scholarly journals, published books, and official websites.
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.
Make sure to check for any warnings at the top of the article that might indicate the information is unreliable. In this case, it might not be a good idea to use the article even for background information.
Example of a poor-quality Wikipedia article