A frequent sentence I've been encountering on Linguistics Stack Exchange for some time now is "According to Wikipedia X is true" or "Wikipedia defines Y as Z". The question often involves asking why this should be the case or "what about the following, based on the assertion on Wikipedia?"

While I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with making some presumptions while asking a question, and that one should spell these out, I personally think that it has gotten to an unhealthy level. At this point, I'm left wondering why these people are asking on here instead of the respective Wikipedia talk pages.

Sometimes these can be flagged for off-topic, but other times the question is genuinely valid. In this case, should we expect any more reason from the asker, besides having seen a certain claim on Wikipedia? Or is it preferable to say "I saw this here, is it true?" instead of asking the question up-front? If it is, how appropriate is the word "According to" for a website where pages can change hourly?

In short, is presenting assumptions or definitions taken straight from Wikipedia something we should tolerate, or are there indeed some issues with this which we ought to have a look at?


You can find good guidelines at https://skeptics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/289/is-wikipedia-a-valid-reference. Of those, I prefer Ustice's approach. In short, it is usually easy to chase down original sources and cite those additionally.

  • > "In short, it is usually easy to chase down original sources and cite those additionally." Yeah that's actually one of my grievances. A lot if assertions I come across come out of academics who silently promote each other on Wikipedia, even if they don't have any real credibility to their claims. For myself, I prefer to try and cite by person or username if not available, but that's just me, it's not a community guideline or anything. Most people seem ok with a "Wikipedia said it so it must be true" perspective and that's what I think is the more troublesome issue. Is this really ok? – madprogramer Apr 7 '20 at 12:09

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