Encyclopedia Sources

What kind of source is an encyclopedia?

Encyclopedias are considered reference material and tertiary sources. Tertiary sources usually provide a summary or a consolidation of a topic. That summary may contain both primary and secondary sources. Tertiary sources are not usually used for academic research. Other examples of tertiary sources include almanacs, fact books, textbooks, directories,etc.

What kind of source is Wikipedia?

  • Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia. It's the largest encyclopedia that has ever existed and is continuing to grow.

    The secret to Wikipedia's success is its openness: most pages can be edited by anyone at any time. Wikipedia's
    page states that "Wikipedia is based on a model of openly editable content." The same page also states that "Wikipedia is written collaboratively by largely anonymous volunteers who write without pay." People interested in a topic can contribute information toward an article, which gets updated immediately.

  • Because it’s open to everyone, it is sometimes difficult or impossible to gauge the authority of the article authors. Any given article could have multiple authors and “editors” contributing content. Many of them are anonymous.