Can Wikipedia Be A Legitimate Resource For Student Research?

Students and teachers at Britain’s Imperial College are banding together in an effort to legitimize Wikipedia as a resource for formal academic research.

For students that have grown up with the Internet, performing a split-second Google search has all but replaced hours in the library, combing through card catalog for references to write a paper.

Despite teachers’ best efforts to ban it, Wikipedia, the infamously convenient-yet-unreliable global encyclopedia, has become one of the top sources of information for student research.

Imperial College’s newly-formed group of Wikipedians is planning an event to address the often unspoken place of Wikipedia in students’ research, and discuss ways to improve editing on Wikipedia pages so that they can earn a more respected place in academia.

“Wikipedia is here to stay – it’s a question of whether we come up to speed with it or try to ignore it,” Vinesh Patel a medical student and the group’s president told BBC News.

“Students know there is an inherent unreliablity… We’re not trying to hide that.”

Mr Patel went on to say that he wants to co-ordinate the way pages are edited by students and staff and to make the most of Wikipedia, rather than pretend it’s not there.

The Wikipedians want to move past the fact that Wikipedia is an openly-edited resource, and start looking for actual evidence about how it compares in reliability with other reference sources.

Patel told the BBC that there is no reason to single out Wikipedia as a source for plagiarism.

“There are relatively sophisticated software systems to check for plagiarism.

“And is Wikipedia that different from other sources? You could plagiarise from a peer-reviewed journal. It’s no more easy to plagiarise from Wikipedia.”

Related Reading

College Kids Plagiarize A LOT! Blame The Internet?

Stimulate The Economy By Forgiving Student Loans?

Theatre Program Helps Students Understand Energy Choices

Image Credit:


Jami Winn
Jami Winn6 years ago

anyone can technically go on wikipedia and change information on making it a very sketchy resource my school has it blocked on the computers so we wont have false info on our projects, reports, etc.

Don Go
Don Go6 years ago

THis is stupid, they can't legitimize it. The fact is wikipedia is too easily alterable.

I only use wikipedia too look for sources, I actually read it, see what may be useful and follow the little numbers to see if it's reliable info.

But it is NOT a legitimate source. It's like punching in "google" as a source.

well..plain old google. Google maps and google books might count. =_="

Rosiana M.
Rosiana M.6 years ago

Wikipedia is helpful but it is not substantial enough. There should be more research from other sources.

Sumit jamadar
Sumit jamadar6 years ago


Tomasz Grabarczyk

Thanks for this :)

Lindy E.
Belinda E6 years ago

It appears to me that the comments, and indeed the article, are muddying the distinction between "resource" and "reference." For kids just starting to do research papers, the encyclopedia is a valuable resource, and can be cited as a source, since the objective is to learn how to look things up. For a serious paper, though, an encylopedia is of value only as a launching point - to give you an idea what facts are known about the subject, and what points you want to make in your paper. It is definitely not to be cited as a source; that is, it is a useful resource, but NOT a reference.

Wikipedia is in the same category, although with two drawbacks: it is not authoritative (you can't believe everything you read there), and it lends itself well to plagiarism (cut-and-paste is SO much easier than copying out of a book!) On the other hand, it does tend to have much more up-to-date information.

Justina G.
Justina Gil6 years ago

Even though random people can update it, most people dont put incorrect data up. i think its a very useful site. and i go there for everything that google or yahoo answers can tell me.

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B6 years ago

Why not?

Betsy M.
Betsy M6 years ago

Students should be using Wikipedia. It is a great resource, and the more you learn about it the more useful it is. It usually has good references for further reading. You can look up who edited it, check out the discussion between editors, find out if its considered a controversial topic ... find out who added goofy fact errors to amuse themselves, and how quickly the errors were corrected. It is hard to find a more current information resource.

Michael R.
Michael R.6 years ago

Of course it can not. I was just discusing this very thing earlier with a teacher friend of mine. We both agreed that since anyone can contribute without fact varification. I would use it as a resoarse for further investigation. Just not as a cite.