Is it allowed to quote Wikipedia in scientific papers?

Wikipedia is a hugely popular online encyclopedia that most people have already resorted to in their internet literature research.

Specifying Wikipedia as a source is controversial

This is mainly due to the fact that the professional competence of the authors can usually not be guaranteed and their identity is often unknown. Thus, it is difficult to assess whether the information appearing on Wikipedia, are really correct. At first glance, there are two reasons that suggest that Wikipedia should not be quoted in a scientific paper.

Although there are quite a few content on Wikipedia, which are characterized by a very good quality, this is far from being the case for all articles. This is probably the most important reason why one should better not quote Wikipedia in scientific papers. The danger that the bachelor, master or doctoral candidate could build up his chain of argumentation on untrue content is simply too big for a quote from Wikipedia.

Quote from wikipedia – when is this allowed for scientific work?
When should you quote from Wikipedia in a scientific paper? The authors quote Wikipedia best when it comes to the scientific work around this online encyclopedia itself.


An example of such a work could be a bachelors’ thesis addressing the weaknesses or inconsistencies of the platform. If Wikipedia is the central subject of their own work, it would be downright foolish not to quote this source.

However, caution is warranted, as the authors themselves continue to assess the truth content of the content on Wikipedia, which is not possible without the related expertise and other sources that are considered much more trustworthy.

How do I quote Wikipedia? So you can still use Wikipedia in the search!

Rather, Wikipedia is quite a popular source to first get an overview of the subject area. However, your own research should then continue to lead you clearly, as more valuable literature improves your understanding and entry into the subject.

Wikipedia gives the first overview
In this context, Wikipedia should be regarded as a kind of encyclopedia, which serves as a first overview of a rather broad field of knowledge. However, only science-based literature should ultimately be used to acquire the necessary expertise for their own scientific work.

Wikipedia is a source inspiration
However, Wikipedia can also be helpful in this regard. After all, contain many articles on Wikipedia quite references to other sources, which are sometimes characterized by a higher scientific quality. These sources can therefore be quite interesting in the writing of a scientific work.

Wikipedia is up to date

In addition to the reference to many useful sources, Wikipedia excels above all with its topicality. Especially specialized literature is often antiquated. If you are looking for up-to-date information, Wikipedia can serve as a guide to his scientific work. A complete renunciation of Wikipedia in its own research would therefore make little sense. Maybe that would even give you some useful information for your scientific work.


If you use Wikipedia for any of the above reasons as a research tool for your scientific work, you should nevertheless refrain from quoting this source. Although Wikipedia should not appear as a source in the bibliography of its own work, it may appear in the bibliography. After all, the source was certainly used in their own research and could sometimes show profitable information in the form of a reference to other interesting sources.

Why many professors speak out against Wikipedia
Unfortunately, many professors are struggling with the fact that more and more of their graduates are brazenly writing off various sources on the Internet (plagiarism). In this context, Wikipedia is often mentioned:

  • Lack of quality assurance
  • Anonymity of the content authors at Wikipedia
  • Constant change of content
  • Problem with constant content changes on Wikipedia
  • Although Wikipedia is a public source that is permanently available, the content is constantly changing with a regularity that is often even higher than many other sources on the Internet. Thus, the citations on the website of Wikipedia later can not always be fully understood. All in all, these concerns have led many universities to strictly prohibit Wikipedia from quoting. This fact is mostly recorded in the Examination Regulations of the respective university. If you are unsure about this, you can also ask your maintainer directly if citation is permitted by Wikipedia. Most caregivers will deny this.

Quotes from Wikipedia are best to use only with very good reasoning
If your own university has not completely forbidden the use of citations from Wikipedia, there is nevertheless a special feature that has to be taken into account when quoting. In scientific work, the source must be checked for completeness, plausibility, scientific quality and objectivity. This is especially true at Wikipedia.

Therefore, the authors should be able to explain in detail why they quote Wikipedia. For example, if there is another reference book that could have been cited instead of Wikipedia, then this reference book is almost always to be preferred.

If you have nevertheless taken a quote from Wikipedia, this is often interpreted by the supervisor as a mere convenience and therefore credited to the candidate negatively. If the timeliness of the content on Wikipedia speaks for citation, this should be clearly stated.

If it is a work on Wikipedia itself, this is usually reason enough to quote this source. As mentioned earlier, caution is also needed in this case when choosing specific citations. In addition, the mention of the permalink and the date of retrieval is a must if an author wants to quote Wikipedia in a scientific paper.