I have encountered a great many occasions where wikipedia can answer the question. Spot on. Mostly, I re-write (i.e., condense, extract, clarify, find more appropriate articles) the wiki page into an answer, get a few +1s and everyone is happy. I have seen quite a few arguments against wikipedia, including that it is written at a pretty high level. I think I agree on that. But more importantly, often the wikis are extremely lengthy; a trained scientist quickly sifts through the bladibla and hits target, while the poster may not be able to do that without getting lost in all the info. I have been there. Or, the wiki articles are simply too short. Hence, I think converting wiki's into answers is not so bad. Especially considering that, e.g., people working as computer scientists on a BioMed program may be totally confused by definitions. Anyway.

My question: should questions be put on hold as being answerable by "see wiki" ? If yes, I may have to increase my answering threshold.


2 Answers 2


Many of the answers on this site can be answered by anyone knowing where to look for answers. That is not necessarily a bad thing, knowing exactly where to look and what to look for is often very difficult for someone new to the topic.

Wikipedia is not a special case, it is simply a very easy to find source of answers. But this issue is the same whether the answer is in Wikipedia or a textbook.

There is one large category of questions that are problematic, and I assume that those are the kind that triggered your meta post. If the answer to a question is "you should really read up on this whole topic", the question is likely far too broad and the asker will have problems following most answers here. We shouldn't regurgitate Wikipedia articles, if the asker can get the same information by simply reading Wikipedia, this is likely not a good question for the site.

There is a second category of questions that can be answered by Wikipedia. Those that are more specific, probably obvious to anyone that knows the field, but not necessarily to anyone new to it. If a user, e.g. a student tries to understand some aspect of biology better, this might be a good question for us even if it is answered on Wikipedia. Ideally such a questions would show that the user thought about the topic, but simply didn't know where exactly to look.

There is not a hard line between there, it is pretty much a judgement call.


We prefer answers from primary sources, scientific literature where possible. Wikipedia is not a primary source, and I think we should discourage this kind of meta-citation. Digging into papers cited there is a viable option, so that you aren't relying on someone else's translation into wiki-language.

I think the bigger issue is that questions that are answerable via wikipedia probably aren't very good questions.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with both answers. I try to always answer with journal articles or reliable sources. However, I don't see down votes for answers that are basic wholesale Wikipedia regurgitations. Is this something we should consider "not a helpful answer" and down vote? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 1:30
  • $\begingroup$ @anongoodnurse In my mind, competely wikipedia-sourced answers are (mostly) ok and useful, but they are not good/great answers. But this is only true if the wiki-articles they use are well-referenced and accurate themselves. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 23:59

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