Wikipedia provides the best and most accessible single source of information on the largest number of topics in the largest number of languages. If you’re anything like me, you use it all the time. If you (also like me) use Wikipedia to inform your research, teaching, or other sorts of projects that result in shared, public, or even published work, you may also want to cite Wikipedia. I wrote a short tutorial to help people do that more accurately and effectively.
The days when teachers and professors banned students from citing Wikipedia are perhaps not entirely behind us, but do you know what to do if you find yourself in a situation where it is socially/professionally acceptable to cite Wikipedia (such as one of my classes!) and you want to do so in a responsible, durable way?
More specifically, what can you do about the fact that any Wikipedia page you cite can and probably will change? How do you provide a useful citation to a dynamic web resource that is continuously in flux?
This question has come up frequently enough in my classes over the years, that I drafted a short tutorial on doing better Wikipedia citations for my students back in 2020. It’s been through a few revisions since then and I don’t find it completely embarrassing, so I am blogging about it now in the hopes that others might find it useful and share more widely. Also, since it’s on my research group’s wiki, you (and anyone you know) can even make further revisions or chat about it with me on my user:talk page.
You might be thinking, "so wait, does this mean I can cite Wikipedia for anything"??? To which I would respond "Just hold on there, cowboy."
Wikipedia is, like any other information source, only as good as the evidence behind it. In that regard, nothing about my recommendations here make any of the information on Wikipedia any more reliable than it was before. You have to use other skills and resources to assess the quality of the information you’re citing on Wikipedia (e.g., the content/quality of the references used to support the claims made in any given article).
Like I said above, the problem this really tries to solve is more about how to best cite something on Wikipedia, given that you have some good reason to cite it in the first place.