Intended for healthcare professionals

Editorials

Citing Wikipedia

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1819 (Published 06 March 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1819
  1. Lane Rasberry, Wikipedian in residence
  1. 1Consumer Reports, 101 Truman Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10703, USA
  1. lrasberry{at}consumer.org

Don’t do it—Wikipedians wouldn’t

Wikipedia should not be cited as a source of information. It is a summary of primary and secondary sources, all of which should be referenced, so people wishing to cite information found in Wikipedia should follow its citation to the source from which it was derived and credit the original authors and work. Wikipedia was never intended for use as an independent authority because it is authored by anonymous online contributors. The Wikipedia community (anyone who contributes to or edits Wikipedia) seeks to back up every statement with citations and encourages all readers to verify what they read by going back to the original sources. Wikipedia helps readers to find sources to cite. It is not itself a citable source.

In a linked study (doi:10.1136/bmj.g1585),1 Bould and colleagues found more than 1400 health science articles that cited Wikipedia, with half of the citations occurring between 2010 and 2013. They categorized each citation by type and judged that just 4% of citations were appropriate—in other words, categorized as “citations about Wikipedia” or “Wikipedia used in methods.” The headline message, which I believe to be …

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