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Wikipedia: Using Wikipedia

Find out more about Wikipedia and its strengths and weaknesses as a research tool.

Do's and Don't's

DO...

  • use Wikipedia to become familiar with a topic or as a starting point for research
  • use Wikipedia to find more search terms or keywords for your research topic
  • maintain a level of skepticism when reading Wikipedia articles

DON'T...

  • cite Wikipedia articles in your bibliography for assignments or papers
  • treat information on Wikipedia as facts, especially when concerning legal or medical advice

Alternatives to Wikipedia

Use these online databases (that Pitt subscribes to, allowing you access from on or off campus) as alternatives to Wikipedia:

Anatomy of a Wikipedia Article

Title: The subject of the article, like "University of Pittsburgh" or "George Washington."

Summary/Opening: An overview that gives general information to describe and define the subject.

Contents: An outline of the information presented in the article. You can click on any of the sections to automatically navigate to that section. 

Sections: Divisions of the information in the article.

References: A list of sources that the editors and contributors consulted while writing the information presented in the article. 

External Links: Links related to the subject of the article. 

Tutorial

This tutorial, created by the North Carolina State University Libraries, gives information on what wikis are and who contributes to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia's Disclaimers

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