Wikipedia:Citing Wikipedia

We advise special caution when using Wikipedia as a source for research projects. Normal academic usage of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias 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 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 an unusual 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:

Examples of alternatives to citing Wikipedia[]

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.:


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 ion growth, and Wikipedia orial 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]

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

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:

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

MLA style[]

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

The eighth ion 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) and the date on which the information was retrieved.

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

For citation of Wikipedia as a site, use:

MHRA style[]

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

Chicago style[]

Citation in Chicago style:

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."

CBE/CSE Style[]

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

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 ion, 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; Internet; retrieved 10 August 2004.

2Wikipedia contributors, "Marketing."Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed August 10, 2004)


Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Updated 22 July 2004, 10:55 UTC. Encyclopedia on-line. Available from Species. Internet. Retrieved 10 August 2004.

(According to Turabian 6th ion, ¶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 2003, 10:55 UTC. In Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. Encyclopedia on-line. Available from Internet. Retrieved 10 August 2004.

(Indenting is like that of the bibliography.)

Legal citation styles[]

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

Here is an example:

This format reflects Rule 18.2 of the 18th and 19th ion 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 = "",
   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{}" 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 : 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.

External links[]