There is some discussion in my Internet History, Technology and Security course about whether Wikipedia can be used as a reference. Here is the quote:
Can you provide us with guidelines on when it is ok to use wikipedia as an authoritative source for academic writing? There is an active discussion in the peer review forum with no hope of any agreement.
At the risk of being flamed from 1000 directions – here is my answer and my policy.
For the writing in this class – Wikipedia is perfectly fine. For things that are relatively technical or scientific and broadly understood, WIkipedia is as good a reference as anything else. Wikipedia’s weaknesses are in emerging areas where researchers are trying to define the space and using Wikipedia to try to short-circuit the knowledge building process. Wikipedia is also very very weak when there are some external “stakes” involved as seen in the “Paul Ryan” Wikipedia edits/wars.
But for a page like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmission_Control_Protocol – there is not likely a better source other than the original documents upon which the article is based.
So there is not a blanket good/bad here – all references need to be chosen with an eye to their credibility and suitability for purpose. Given the nature of this course I would expect that most Wikipedia references would be perfectly fine. But if perhaps someone is making a contentious point and using a Wikipedia page to support their position – it might be weak.
For example, if we were fiercely debating the merits of using Wikipedia as a reference source and cited a Wikipedia page to support our position – that would be kind of weak :)
So any argument regarding the appropriateness of a reference needs to focus on the reference itself and not the blanket fact that it comes from Wikipedia.