Writing an academic paper or professional report requires you to cite verified and authoritative sources. Unlike primary and secondary sources, Wikipedia is considered a tertiary source since its information is written and edited by its own users. At any point, a user can modify a Wikipedia entry with misinformation or omit information altogether.
Therefore, professors advise against exclusively using Wikipedia for your research. However, using it as a starting point has become an increasingly acceptable practice, as developed Wikipedia entries often have a list of references to original, credible sources that you can explore in more depth.
If you’re allowed to use Wikipedia as a source, there are citation format nuances to be aware of. The MLA format for citing Wikipedia includes the following elements: the title of the entry (same as on-page headline), container name, publisher, last updated date, and permalink.
How to cite Wikipedia in MLA style
Since there are multiple users that have contributed to the page, omit the author element that would usually start a standard MLA citation. Instead, begin the entry on your works cited page with the Wikipedia page name in quotation marks.
For the container name, use Wikipedia’s full name. Here’s what a Wikipedia citation looks like in MLA format:
“Page name.”Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Day Month Year last updated, permalink.
“The Fellowship of the Ring.”
“The Fellowship of the Ring.”Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 May 2022, en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Fellowship_of_the_Ring&oldid=1086698464.
The last updated date can be found at the bottom of all Wikipedia entries. MLA format doesn’t require the “https://” as part of the permanent link.
Typically, an in-text and parenthetical citation using MLA format includes the author and page number elements. However, Wikipedia entries don’t name a single author and don’t have page numbers.
When incorporating an in-text citation in your research paper, use an abbreviated version of the Wikipedia entry title in quotation marks. Below is an example of how an in-text citation might look for the same Wikipedia source
In-text citation example:
If you’re citing a Wikipedia entry as a part of a written sentence, simply use the shortened entry name in quotations without the parentheses. For example:
As demonstrated in “Fellowship,” the dynamic between Middle-earth and . . .