9

Ask anybody involved in academia and they will tell you without hesitation that Wikipedia is not a valid source to reference in an academic article.

While I understand that SE is much like Wikipedia (in that it is user editable), I don't feel that Wikipedia should be allowed as a valid reference for answers.

Sure, we can't stop users from posting answers that reference the 'pedia, but if we stop new users from quoting from it during their "First Post" review, hopefully we can encourage a more academic stance within the community.

I'm not against a question citing Wikipedia if need be as it's a question and needs to be answered; if Wiki is the only source they can find it's our duty to help them out.

I think this is something that needs discussing while in beta so we are clear when the site goes live.

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  • @Christofian I had those in mind when I posted this, I just wasn't sure about linking to them. But thanks :) – Stuart H Apr 28 '15 at 21:11
  • Wikipedia turns out to be particularly bad as a source for mythology (whereas, Wikipedia is genuinely excellent for some fields of math; apolitical current events; and things like that), because it's a niche topic (outside stuff like "Hercules", "Ragnarok", etc.), meaning that there are few editors and few eyes for any given article, allowing factual inaccuracies and stuff to slip in. – senshin Apr 28 '15 at 21:35
  • Although I agree with what you're saying, I generally trust the greek version of wikipedia, which is rich in mythological matters. Sometimes the entries in English are similar to the Greek ones (they usually miss a lot of information, but the general idea remains the same) and I find them useful since I can't cite a Greek text. – codingEnthusiast Apr 28 '15 at 22:02
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    @naltipar I think it would be great if you cited greek texts. Could you provide a rough translation? If not, maybe cite the greek text, summarise what it means, and then use wikipedia as a backup source. – user62 Apr 28 '15 at 22:54
  • @naltipar Agree with Christofian - I don't know anything about Greek Wikipedia, but I imagine it could be fairly good for Greek mythology stuff. I think it is perfectly appropriate to cite Greek source text and then provide a summary (not necessarily a full translation, unless you want to) in English. – senshin Apr 28 '15 at 23:07
  • Thanks for the comments, I'll stick to your advice. – codingEnthusiast Apr 28 '15 at 23:15
24

There is no need for special treatment of any source, including Wikipedia. Posters should be allowed to reference whatever they want, and those references judged on their own merits.

Academia shuns Wikipedia as reference because its quality cannot be guaranteed, not because it can't sometimes be an excellent source. We are not academia, nor do we need to match its standards of rigour. If someone wants to support a "soft" claim like "who was Athena's mother", they shouldn't need to find a paper claiming so.

Wikipedia is fallible, but so are many other sources. Comments and votes are how we should treat poor references, not blanket site bans.

By the way, I do agree with closing questions that could be easily answered by a General Reference site, which is probably Wikipedia in our case.

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    I don't think this question is about implementing a "blanket site ban" (which would require moderators to implement anyway), but more about developing community standards to guide how people comment and vote. So I think that any reasonable person would not demand a non-Wikipedia source to support a claim about who Athena's mother was, but for more nuanced questions, dropping a pile of text from Wikipedia over here is not a great approach. – senshin Apr 28 '15 at 23:52
  • @senshin I don't mean a specific ban mechanism, just a general acknowledgement that "this is bad and we should all downvote or edit it away". I see what you're saying but how do you draw the line between supporting a claim and reference? Or whether a question is nuanced? The only way I see is if a weak source is challenged, and that could happen whether that source is Wikipedia or not. Therefore, there's no need to single out Wikipedia, or any site, for special treatment. – congusbongus Apr 29 '15 at 0:13
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    Okay, I see what you're saying, and in principle, there wouldn't be a need to single out Wikipedia for special treatment. In practice, though, I think there is a reason: people (on any non-technical SE site) tend to write answers that just consist of copied paragraphs from Wikipedia, and these are bad just because any idiot could have looked up the relevant Wikipedia article themself (i.e. the answer adds no real value). By proactively discouraging these answers, I think we improve the quality of the site. – senshin Apr 29 '15 at 0:18
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    "We are not academia, nor do we need to match its standards of rigour." Why not? Wouldn't that be a sign that we are a useful resource? – user62 Apr 30 '15 at 1:27
8

This has been brought up on other sites, including Health.SE in this meta post. The general consensus was that it can be used, but not as a main source.

That being said, this site is a lot different. I think that to support soft claims as mentioned in this answer, Wikipedia is a fine source, but there probably are other sources out there saying the same thing. Many of these sources probably have the same reliability as Wikipedia, and I also think it will be a bit harder to find extremely reliable sources for many of the questions on here.*

Overall, I think that Wikipedia can be used, but not exclusively Wikipedia. I think it is okay to link to Wikipedia if your are mentioning a god or deity that might not be as well known, but if the question looking for hard proof about a subject, then it is better to use another, more reliable source.


*Also note that Wikipedia does have sources at the bottom of their pages, so those can also be used

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3

Wikipedia should be used more like a dictionary, to reference terms that may not be familiar to all. This can be done with in line links.

If the article on Wikipedia has any worth as a reference it has a list of references at the bottom of the article that where used as sources. Use those works as references.

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