If someone answers a question but refers to a Wikipedia link as a definitive source for the answer, should that answer be deleted or flagged somehow?

Reasons and explanation for my question

The academic use section on Wikipedia states "However, citation of Wikipedia in research papers may be considered unacceptable, because Wikipedia is not considered a credible or authoritative source" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Academic_use). Please do not cite the irony of my linking to wikipedia for this source as it is probably not a community-driven page and it is what Wikipedia itself states.

I understand that it is useful to refer somebody to Wikipedia to give them a general idea of some problem they may be considering, but it is another matter to use Wikipedia as an authoritative, definitive source.

I feel that when somebody gives an answer to a question and that answer depends on the authority of others then any link treated as authoritative ought to refer to a credible source that has a process for peer review and is not simply editable by the community at large.

The main reason why I am asking this is to make sure I do not answer any questions in a way that negatively impacts the community here.


1 Answer 1


Treating Wikipedia as authoritative (i.e. "Wikipedia say X and that settles it!") would be laughably silly, but Wikipedia is a fairly reliable source for all kinds of basic and widely available knowledge.

Several uses of Wikkipedia that are (in my opinion, with my moderators hat taken off) completely appropriate:

  • To support a argument or derivation only sketched in the answer I regularly point to Wikipedia when I'm going to skips some steps and am not sure the OP has the preparation to follow the jump unaided, thus hopefully avoid the bit where some authors (I'm looking at you, J.D. Jackson) says "it is obvious that" just before a line that seems to have nothing in common with the proceeding argument.

  • To set a lower limit on the preparation expected Questions that can be answered directly out of the Wikipedia page are suspect as too lazy and unresearched for the site.

  • As a source for basic tabulated input to work For the purposes of Physics.SE, the values of, say, coefficients of linear thermal expansion listed in the Wikipedia are fine. Say where you got them and if someone whats to be really sure they can dig up a Handbook of Chemistry and Physics themselves.

Answer that exist merely to provide a redirect are always bad answers no matter what they link to and will eventually be deleted or converted to a comment by moderator action.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Additionally, it's often one of the few places with the illustrations/images/graphs/whatever that are CC-licensed and thus easy to use here without issue. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Commented Dec 28, 2013 at 20:09

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