College: Wikipedia Not Source for Papers

The Middlebury College history department has issued an edict: “Wikipedia is not an acceptable citation, even though it may lead one to a citable source.”

Well, yeah. Even in high school, we weren’t allowed to cite the encyclopedia. Not even Britannica, which is prepared by geniune experts and peer reviewed.

I like Wikipedia and cite it frequently for the blog. Academic research, though, should rely on primary and secondary sources, not tertiary ones.

Via Bill Jempty

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I agree, although I had a professor in graduate school who cited Wikipedia in lectures. But I guess tenure gave him a little leeway 🙂

  2. John Burgess says:

    According to Volokh Conspiracy, some courts are starting to cite Wikipedia. That’s a might troubling, far more than some student’s use in a term paper.

  3. Anderson says:

    According to Volokh Conspiracy, some courts are starting to cite Wikipedia.

    It depends on the context. If they’re citing it for Stuff We Knew Anyway, not so bad. It’s a peculiarity of legal writing that nothing is *really* true unless some other authority has said so. Rather a medieval mindset in some ways — “never mind what *you* say about 2 + 2, what did *Aristotle* say about it?”

  4. Billy says:

    Wikipedia is a lot less citable than Britannica, for the obvious reason that anyone can edit it. Still, good policy that should be self-evident.