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I have just posted an answer to this question where I cited Wikipedia as the source of my information.

Is wikipedia a reliable enough source to go to when citing information of this nature? I appreciate the dangers of blindly quoting from Wiki articles, but at the same time the majority of information on the site is well moderated and mostly reliable (in my experience; YMMV).

Is there a consensus on this?

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    If I were to ask a question, and I got a pertinent quote and link to Wikipedia, it would probably help me, and I'd be perfectly able to judge its reliability on my own. At any rate, there are many fine answers that do not quote any source at all — this is not a database of scientific articles. So dont worry too much. Marthas advice not to trust Wikipedia blindly is of course prudent. – Cerberus Jan 12 '11 at 0:29
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I don't know the SE consensus. In other forums, the rule is often that Wikipedia is not sufficient - you can use it as a starting point, and you can even cite it, but you need to investigate further. If the article is based on online sources, then it's pretty easy to just go to those online sources, find the information you need, and cite that (instead of or in addition to Wikipedia). If the sources are not online, or are restricted access, then it's a bit harder.

I think for English.SE, if you're just citing Wikipedia to support something you already knew, then it can be sufficient on its own. If, however, you didn't know something until you read it on Wikipedia, then it might be a good idea to find at least one other source.

  • Perfect, great advice Martha! – Andy F Jan 12 '11 at 7:55
  • I would also add that Wikipedia itself warns against citing it as a source, especially for a more or less serious academic research. – olegst May 4 '17 at 7:10
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What makes “…a reliable enough source…” is pretty context-dependent. The amount of background needed in an answer depends partly on how debatable/disputed an issue seems to be. If a question has a simple answer which native speakers find obvious and agree on, then an answer probably doesn’t need any citations at all. If several people are disagreeing about an issue, then another unsourced answer is useless — further answers will need to be backed up, the more authoritatively the better.

Wikipedia is somewhere middling-high on this scale of reliability; it’s much better than no citation, or than J. Random Blogger, but not as reliable (on linguistic/usage matters) as good dictionaries or most academic work.

  • Well, unless J. Random Blogger is posting on Language Log or the like... – Marthaª Jan 13 '11 at 21:12
  • Good point on "if several people are disagreeing...". – Cerberus Jan 14 '11 at 4:28
  • @Martha: Indeed, I didn’t mean to impugn particular well-respected blogs — in my usage, “J. Random Blogger” means something like “the average blog”. – PLL Jan 14 '11 at 16:48

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