I have seen a few answers that use Wikipedia as a reference by saying words like: "according to Wikipedia", "Wikipedia says that" and etc. As you already know, everyone is free to edit topics in Wikipedia and this kind of freedom may open a door for many misconceptions. Now my question is that how reliable Wikipedia is when it is referred to? I am asking this question because as a beginner when I read a topic in Wikipedia, I am not sure about its healthiness.

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    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about the general reliability of wikipedia (off topic here)? Or are you asking about whether it's okay to cite it in answers on this site? If it's the latter, I don't see why not cite wikipedia or anything else -- our answers are not peer-reviewed publications and can cite whatever they want. $\endgroup$
    – Lev Reyzin Mod
    Feb 11, 2014 at 17:16
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    $\begingroup$ @RezaHasanzadeh can you give some examples from our site where this is done? If a question can be answered by wikipedia then it is usually off-topic here since research-level questions are seldom answered by wikipedia (as you would be expected to read the relevant wikipedia article before you ask the question). $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2014 at 21:48
  • $\begingroup$ @ArtemKaznatcheev Please look at one of the answers in this thread: link. I dug more and noticed that many of the questions whose answers can be found on Wikipedia are accurately voted to be closed by members. So, I think several(first line) should be replaced by a few. $\endgroup$
    – reza
    Feb 13, 2014 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ @RezaHasanzadeh the question you link is an atypical example, and one of our "big list" questions. Most questions on this site are not of this type, although a few of the really highly upvoted ones are (because such a question is a general resource of interest to many). If you are referring to this specific answer then I don't see anything in particular wrong with it, but I am not an expert on the topic. However, I am inclined to believe that the answer is probably not misleading given that the user who gave it mostly contributes good answers. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2014 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ However, if you are an expert on the topic, and think the answer is wrong (for instance, you know a package that fully implements the said algorithm) then you should comment below the answer. $\endgroup$ Feb 13, 2014 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @LevReyzin Certainly the latter. Perhaps you should turn your comment into an answer. $\endgroup$
    – reza
    Feb 16, 2014 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ RH you are overthinking this; wikipedia links simply serve in various places (question, answers, comments) as online encyclopedia entries or definitions of terms & are provided partly out of courtesy. its also not always obvious what obscure topics are covered on wikipedia (it changes all the time) & the links help identify a "baseline" of knowledge. however, an answer that doesnt elaborate anything over what is contained in wikipedia is not much valid & will likely get downvoted or deleted. it would however be great if SE had an official policy somewhere that stated these conventions. $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Feb 18, 2014 at 23:23

1 Answer 1


I would say that Wiki links are acceptable for basic definitions or a general overview of some topic, especially if there is no freely accessible alternative. Ideally, the answerer should have some expertise in the area of the question and before linking to Wiki can verify that the article is of acceptable quality. I do not think that Wiki articles on technical subjects are likely to deteriorate over time, it's more likely that on some more obscure topics a decent entry was never written.

However, I would say that an online copy of a book is always better for definitions, and for all results the primary reference should be cited, maybe with Wiki as an additional link.

Finally, as Artem pointed out, we expect that almost all Wiki citations in CSTheory would be no more than supplementary reading: if a question can be answered by a Wiki reference, it is unlikely that it was a research level question.


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