Can I use it?
YES, you can look at Wikipedia to help with your assignments.
But NO, you cannot use or reference Wikipedia in your assignments.
Instead of using Wikipedia, you need to find more academic information in a book, ebook, journal article from a database, or from somewhere reliable on the internet.
What is Wikipedia?
Wikipedia is a 'crowdsourced' online encyclopedia with 35 million articles in 288 languages. 'Crowdsourced' means that Wikipedia is written by a lot of different people - anyone can write Wikipedia! There are almost 70,000 'editors' on Wikipedia, all over the world. Because everyone has different opinions and ideas of what Wikipedia should say, the information on Wikipedia changes all the time.
Why can't I use Wikipedia for my assignment?
You never know who wrote something on Wikipedia, when they wrote it, or why they wrote it. You never know if they are an expert writing about something they have studied for years, or your 13-year old neighbour writing something as a joke.
Because Wikipedia is always changing and the information you read may not be from a reliable source, it's not okay to use it or reference it in an academic assignment. You need to find better sources of information for your study - such as OneSearch (library database search)
Check out the two links below. One will show you real-time changes in Wikipedia articles. The other is the list of commonly 'vandalised' articles - articles where people write wrong information on purpose as a prank or to make a point.
Looking at these, you can see why Wikipedia isn't very reliable!
So, why look at Wikipedia at all?
How can Wikipedia help me if I can't use it or reference it?
You can use Wikipedia to:
Often when you start an assignment, you don't know very much about your topic. Wikipedia can help you start to learn and give you good key words and search terms to help you find information. It also has a lot of great sections to look at to find reliable information on your topic. Every article on Wikipedia is different, but some are really helpful. The article below is a great example.
Check out the following sections in a Wikipedia article, like the one above:
This will list other, related Wikipedia articles that might be helpful.
This is the list of footnotes from the whole article. These can help you figure out what information is good information, and might show you where you can go online to find good information on your topic.
This is usually books or articles on your topic that people writing the article thought would be helpful for you.
This is a list of references, like APA References at the end of an assignment, that help show where ideas and information came from. These can be really useful for you as you study! Look up these references and see if they can be useful in your study - but remember, you are responsible for deciding if information is from a reliable source.
These are websites that may or may not be reliable sources of information on your topic. Sometimes the list of external links on Wikipedia is very good, and other times they can be very untrustworthy. You can click on the yellow The CRAAP Test tab on the left to help you figure out when a website is trustworthy.