Dissertation tip #102: don’t reference Wikipedia!

wikipediaLast week, I was meandering around the internet when I electronically bumped into a lovely woman who I midwifed through her Masters a few years ago. “I’ve seen your new dissertation tips book“, she typed. “What number tip is don’t reference Wikipedia lol?!”


There was a pause before I typed back: “I can’t believe I didn’t put that phrase in!”

She drew a shocked face – like this: 😮 – and the chat reminded me (in a very nice way!) of how often I have uttered those words when I’ve been supporting people writing up their research. For it is my view that, while Wikipedia is fabulous for finding information about Meat Loaf’s back catalogue or discovering why you shouldn’t get too attached when unknown ensigns appear in old episodes of TNG, if you need a definition of postpartum haemorrhage or to quote the distance between the earth and the moon in the Precambrian period, there are better and more reliable academic sources which will also make your work look more polished.

Other lecturers may disagree, but if I read an essay, assignment, dissertation or thesis written by someone who has used wikipedia as a primary source for a piece of factual information relating to their field of study, I tend to think that they either (a) couldn’t be bothered to go to the relevant professional or academic text, (b) they didn’t know how to find the information or (c) they genuinely think that Wikipedia (or similar online sources) are a good a source of knowledge on such topics. And I’m really sorry, but none of the above possibilities give me confidence that I am looking at the work of someone who is excelling in their field.

So I’m adding tip 102 here, because I really, really want your work to impress your readers (who will include the assessors, examiners or markers) from the outset and it is my belief that the few extra minutes that it will take you to get your facts and citation from a classic textbook or an academic article instead will be well worth the investment.

Unless you’re writing your PhD on changes in the public understanding of the composition of the Bat Out of Hell trilogy, in which case go right ahead, and please post below and tell us what you discover. 😀


donatebuttonThis post was part of my 2015 blogfest, during which I wrote a blog post every day for two weeks as a way of saying thank you to those who are helping keep my free and ad-free information activities online. If my work helps you in yours and you would like to make a donation and help me keep all of these resources free and heart-funded through 2016, please click here and make a donation. Thank you for caring about women and babies.


Photo by Jonathan Velasquez via Unsplash

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