This question comes on the back of answers https://psychology.stackexchange.com/a/28001/7604 and https://psychology.stackexchange.com/a/28000/7604 where the answer only has links to Wikipedia articles.

To me, these answers are weak anyway, but I wondered about general consensus considering I commented putting my view across on those answers. Was I harsh to request stronger, more reliable references?

As pointed out in https://psychology.meta.stackexchange.com/a/2436/7604

Some express that Wikipedia should only be used as supportive resources, as it is volatile for edit and frequently circularly referenced. However, for terminology questions, I feel that it is suffice. Frequently such questions are asked from non-professional, and citing journal papers may be overkill.

Personally, I agree, and if we accepted Wikipedia generally, is that going to lead to Psychology Today being acceptable in a general sense?

What is the consensus?

For a balanced view, see

3 Answers 3


I feel like there is more than one question here, but I guess discussions are fine on Meta...

Was I harsh to request stronger, more reliable references?

Of course not! If you feel that an answer needs them, then by all means; your comments were not offensive or harsh in any way, IMO.

Are we to accept only Wikipedia links in answers?

I'm not entirely sure what is being asked here, TBH... We tolerate answers with no references whatsoever, so long as they meet our requirements to qualify as an answer, so Wikipedia is surely an improvement to that.

However, I really don't see what Wikipedia has to do with the issue at hand. If the answerer had referenced non-Wikipedia descriptions of the Einstellung Effect for example, would that have made the answer any better? I don't think so.

The problem is that the question asks for things that affect IQ, and the answer starts with "While not necessarily lowering of one's IQ ..." There are lots of things I could mention (eg, cognitive biases, defense mechanisms, rumination) that don't affect IQ. The problem is that the post simply does not answer the actual question.

BTW, there is some leeway on the Stack Exchange regarding the way we treat non-answers. On highly active sites, downvoting usually works fine, but on smaller stacks like this one, it's reasonable to flag posts as not-an-answer, and simply delete them - search this answer on MSE for the Brazil example. I'm usually fairly liberal with this option (hint hint if you want to flag that answer ;-), though the other mods on this site may feel differently.

if we accepted Wikipedia generally, is that going to lead to Psychology Today being acceptable in a general sense?

The BMJ was recently under fire for the quality of some of its articles. Should we stop treating the BMJ as a reliable source because of a few bad cases? Like Wikipedia, Psychology Today has many articles that are well referenced, and some that are not. I don't think it's fair to slot an entire publication under a single label of "reliable" or "unreliable".

What is the consensus?

The meta question you linked to is a pretty good discussion on this, I'm not really sure what there is to add to it here. Answerers are responsible for their sources, and you are well within your rights to question them, no matter what the underlying publication is.

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    "We tolerate answers with no references" If that is the case why do we insist on references? As Preece commented (4 upvotes) under psychology.meta.stackexchange.com/a/203/7604 (also 4 upvotes) "I agree with Brocka. Quality should not be sacrificed for quantity. If quality is high, I think quantity will naturally increase" Ben Brocka's comment had 5 upvotes saying "As always I think we should allow all content to be posted and request clarification before removing answers, but we shouldn't tolerate totally unsourced and not useful answers". Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 4:58
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    As Ben Brocka's answer received 10 upvotes, I am especially surprised that psychology.stackexchange.com/a/188/7604 linked in the answer got 11 upvotes and was allowed to stand Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 5:00
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    @ChrisRogers Sounds like you and I agree on this; I would certainly like to raise the standard, as I expressed elsewhere before. If that answer had been flagged to me, I would have surely deleted it as unscientific opinion.
    – Arnon Weinberg Mod
    Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 5:14
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    Well it may be late, but I have flagged it as a "non-answer". Commented Dec 13, 2021 at 5:18
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    For what it's worth, I reference Wikipedia a lot, especially for knowledge that I myself have from some textbook or another, but digging up the right textbook can be a pain (most of mine are now in an attic, others I've lost track of over the years), and it's not particularly useful to a reader to provide a reference to a book they don't have. I feel Wikipedia is a good fill-in for that gap in accessibility, and rarely contains errors in textbook-level knowledge (at least errors at a level that are relevant to most novices).
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Dec 14, 2021 at 18:07

For my view, when I asked What are reliable sources? there were some comments under my wiki answer concerning Wikipedia as I naively listed it as a reliable source at the time.

It has happened quite often to me that when I start searching for the primary source on wikipedia that stuff is circularly referenced, such that, while clicking through to obtain the primary source, you end up at your starting wiki page. Wikipedia is open for everyone to change and add stuff. Even worse, content is volatile, such that things may disappear on the long run. The only thing I use wikipedia for is to add links to clarify essential terminology. I would urge everyone to base answers on anything but wikipedia. I tend to downvote answers that only use a wiki page as their only source. – @AliceD

@BryanKrause said the same about using Wikipedia for just terminology.

I would say that wikipedia is a poor place to find claims but typically is very good for terminology including questions where the answer is basically a terminology answer.

Interestingly, Giles, J. (2005) points out that their study found that Wikipedia came close to Encyclopaedia Britannica in terms of accuracy of its science entries.

So if we ban Wikipedia from answers, what about Encyclopaedia Britannica?

Let's just say that for reliability, the bulk of the answer must be cited with references from scientific journals preferably, and from other strong, reliable sources of the likes of NIH, NHS, WebMD, APA, etc.

Where other sources are used, care needs to be taken on its accuracy before being used. They are fine for referencing terminology but cannot necessarily be reliable for backing general or precise claims.


Giles, J. (2005). Internet encyclopaedias go head to head: Jimmy Wales' Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its science entries. Nature. 438(7070): 900–1. https://doi.org/10.1038/438900a


There are many excellent articles in Wikipedia, but there are also some really bad articles, and some excellent articles that contain some really bad sections. The problem is that in general it isn't obvious which is which.

When using Wikipedia, the reliable information almost always has a footnote indicating where it came from. Follow those links and use the original source as part of the answer, not the Wikipedia article. Even if the Wiki is correct, it might change and be incorrect tomorrow.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an answer given without any references. It looked reasonable and sounded knowledgeable so I thought I'd supply one.

A Wikipedia article was at the top of my search list, and it indeed agreed with the given answer. But then I checked the footnote, and found that the citation for this Wikipedia fact referred back to the very Stack Exchange answer that I was trying to find a citation for. And this was within only hours of the initial posting.

One comment referred me to: xkcd: Citogenesis for an explanation of this phenomenon.

By all means use Wikipedia as a tool, but fully fact-check whatever you find there, don't use it as a citation for original facts.

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