Should Wikipedia be used as a qualified resource for iNaturalist?

I ask because in Wikipedia, frequently I come across statements or entire sections flagged for “citation needed.” One example is the “Source: Wikipedia” attached to Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis at

As a researcher, I find this to be a bright red flag for unreliable content. When I was training in university, my thesis prof advised me that using Wikipedia’s sources was fine but not using Wikipedia itself. When researching plants and birds for iNaturalist, I find there are government and university sites available for verification and description purposes. Generally, these have photos, range maps, and scientific descriptions. Should not these be used as sources instead of Wikipedia?


I think the nice thing about Wikipedia is that it is another Wiki project similar to iNaturalist. Anyone can contribute, and it is a website that can potentially have an article about every species on earth. Government websites aren’t going to have that kind of capability, and so Wikipedia is naturally going to be the easiest source to sync up to iNaturalist. I appreciate that iNaturalist often has other links to other sources on the side, such as to the IUCN or to EOL. I think removing Wikipedia would take away more good information than it would wrong information. What we do need to emphasize is reading Wikipedia with critical eyes that are always looking for citations.


Wikipedia is a default if there is no info for the About tab on iNat. There are links to other sources there too. Wikipedia is a starting point.

A few iNatters work at updating Wikipedia.


Just to showcase the other links on the side of the about page.


Of course, it should not be taken as pure gold but an educator should evaluate a content with critical spirit before using for education.


I’ve found Wikipedia articles with the species photos being the completely wrong genus and species, and the description of behaviors being an individual experience that isn’t common for the species so a grain of salt is needed.


Grain of salt is always needed for any source, really. Wikipedia no is no different.
In reality, it’s accuracy isn’t that much off from any other printed encylopedia; probably in part because knowledge is changing so fast these days and a website is far easier to update than print material. Yes we can all find articles that are wrong on wikipedia, but I can point to two huge errors in my huge mushroom ID book I just got which is considered one the best for my region - one doesn’t even exist in the US we know now, and another def not in the Eastern US, at all! Yet, listed as common species. is a nice little overview.

Cite your sources, learn how to sift through text and fact check, these are far more important than what source you pulled from.

The hate on wikipedia (which is free, easily accessible - you don’t have to buy anything or go anywhere) honestly to me comes across as pretty self-pious, perhaps abielist, and also reeks of gatekeeping. Time would be better spent fixing errors you find there, and teaching people about how to learn so they can sift through things themselves in the future.

*general "you"s


I feel that if inaccuracies are found in Wikipedia, it would do everyone a world of good if time can be found to correct the Wiki articles with the right sources.


Let me re-state, Wikipedia is a good opportunity to share knowledge and is free to the public to update and change. I’ve corrected/added to many Wikipedia pages, but just as most sources, a grain of salt is needed. But that doesn’t mean all the info on there is wrong. Most is probably correct. And I always fix things I see are incorrect. Sorry if I came off as negative, I have no negative feelings for Wikipedia and add to it every so often.


For me, actually, iNat became a starting point to get active on Wikipedia myself, as I also realized some wrong or (more often) just missing content on the species I had observed. So instead of complaining I used it as a hook to get myself started :-)
I mean, it´s a growd sourced plattform and as such of course there is space for mistakes or even willingly disruptions… but also space to become part of the growd when you feel, you can add to it.



Could you expand a bit what the question posed by your topic is? For example, iNaturalist does not use Wikipedia as a source for taxonomy or range maps.


I wonder how you meant qualified in your title query.
That can be read as - evaluated as good enough (= it has the required qualifications)

But we can also endorse something with qualifications. To damn with faint praise, it’s … okay but I prefer the other one. I lean towards the second usage. Buyer beware.


I was trying to reply to thread as whole; thanks for clarifying though :) i think we are on same page!

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I’ve done a bit of addition to some of the Canadian Euxoa moths.
I also use it as a resource for some things like you mentioned. If there are links, I’ll follow them (if they are still active) and may pick up further clues from them. Tracking down information often begins by finding a place to start, and Wikipedia is an accessible place to start! It should not be dismissed - many species information sheets are from Wikipedia. Accessible to all.


The good thing about Wikipedia is it is accessible to all. As I mentioned above, it is possible to use it to follow links, and it is possible to confirm or correct information. As a researcher, I would be wary about quoting it as a source, but for most folks it’s a good place to start.


Worth noting that “citation needed” doesn’t mean “this is false”, just “nobody has yet provided a source for this”. There might very well be plenty of sources backing it up, that simply haven’t been linked yet. It is more often added to bits that seem odd, but plenty of animals do plenty of verifiable odd things.


In the absence of a link to a Wikipedia page, despite there being multiple other potential sources for a given taxon, I can’t think of any other convenient over-arching source of information as a starting point. I rarely take anything on Wikipedia at face value. I occasionally use it as a raw source for an introduction to a topic, but not for details or the “gospel truth”, so to speak. I groan at its imprecision on so many natural history topics and species write-ups, but my life is too full (e.g. with iNaturalist) to devote any time to adding or correcting Wikipedia. My hats off to those who take the time to do so.


There is no single reference out there more comprehensive in its coverage than Wikipedia. It is truly incredible. I encourage my students to use it all the time as a jumping-off point; every academic I know uses it routinely. I can’t think of a better foundational resource for iNaturalist. As others have pointed out, it’s a matter of using it critically–which includes posting corrections to it.


Welcome to the Forum! Always lots to talk about.

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i think wikipedia is the natural companion to inaturalist and the things you say about wikipedia are often also said about inaturalist. As others have pointed out, other references probably have similar error rates, but those can’t be fixed. I think professors refusing wikipedia has a source may be partially gatekeeping or classism but mostly is wanting people to spend more time digging through sources for their report instead of just using one. Is this good or bad teaching? probably depends on the student. Either way it doesn’t say much about whether wikipedia is a good source.