I notice a number of questions in the HP and LotR areas (just because they're the ones I focus one) get answers containing links to the respective wikis that exist for both of these universes. I was wondering if SFF.SE should consider a bias towards quoting primary sources, i.e. the books in those cases, rather than copying and pasting an answer off a wiki that might just be someone's rampant speculation?

  • @dianod - I'm so glad you asked this question and am reading the answers with interest. I absolutely hate the HP Wiki >.< Jan 27, 2012 at 13:15
  • 2
    @Slytherincess You could edit the HP wiki to improve it.
    – Xantec
    Jan 27, 2012 at 13:33
  • @Xantec - She only plays the SE game, according to chat :p Jan 27, 2012 at 15:23
  • @Xantec -- That's the problem. Anyone can edit the wiki :/ I can't imagine a bigger exercise in futility, unfortunately. Besides, my editing the HP Wiki is not the solution to dianod's issue. Jan 28, 2012 at 12:45
  • @DVK Okay, okay. . . I also play Rock Band on occasion! ;) Jan 28, 2012 at 12:48

3 Answers 3


It's a balance.

  • Primary sources are 100% more preferable.

    Why? Wiki could be wrong, though not overwhelmingly likely. Either someone there screws up or inserts their own opinion. Slytherincess can give many examples from HP by heart, I ran into a couple myself.

  • Wiki as a source is 100% fine, when it clearly and explicitly sources from primary material:

    "Foo did Bar, in episode 'Forgotten Plot Device #3' of 'Cancelled for being awsome' show. As evidenced by this quote:

    Insert quote

    Insert picture of Foo doing Bar

  • Wiki as a source is ok, if it includes a general source, but no quote.

  • Wiki as a source is somewhat OK if it doesn't have a precise source, BUT you clearly state that "The wiki doesn't source this piece of info". Especially if you can confirm from your own memory that the Wiki is correct despite not having the primary source to quote from.

  • Wiki is tolerable if it doesn't have a source, BUT you really should include the disclaimer that you can't find an exact source on the Wiki (I try to do that).

  • Wiki becomes less OK if 100% of the answer is quoting an unsourced Wiki. Not grounds for deletion or downvotes, but not really a very good answer, and I would prefer a sourced one to replace it.

    Why? Because, while a Wiki can be wrong, it is not wrong all THAT often, so an answer quoting a Wiki is infinitely preferable to no answer or idle speculation.

  • Yes, THIS. As for me, you're correct -- I find the HP Wiki to be incredibly sub par. Not only does it combine book and movie canon, but it seems like every little entry has some kind of statement some random person has appended there that is completely erroneous. I'm pretty much at the point now where I won't consider the HP Wiki as a valid source. For me, it's canon, canon, canon, all the way. And I wonder -- do I need to preface every single question I ask with the caveat that I consider the Wiki to be a non-source? Probably. I admit I prefer no answer to Wikispam. :/ Jan 27, 2012 at 13:09
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    "Foo doing Bar" - so risque. What did the censors have to say? Jan 27, 2012 at 17:33
  • Also, how sould we handle this? should mods fact check answers? I'm not opposed to some fact checking, but its a lot of work to make sure all wiki links have valid sources. Jan 27, 2012 at 17:34
  • @OghmaOsiris - huh??? Jan 27, 2012 at 17:36
  • @OghmaOsiris - Community, via comments, edits, upvotes and downvotes. You may have noticed Slytherincess' rep :) Jan 27, 2012 at 17:37
  • You mentioned that wikis arent very useful and less ok if the wiki doesn't have cited sources or no quotes. So I didn't know if you were trying to make a point that third party people should do fact checking. Jan 27, 2012 at 19:33
  • @OghmaOsiris - I was trying to make a point that I will trust any answer based on a Wiki with no clear sources less than one with clear sources, and that many wikis don't have clear sources. And that if $user wants me to trust his answer, he needs to either point to primary sources, OR to Wiki that has them in good format Jan 27, 2012 at 21:53
  • +1, very nice summary.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jun 13, 2016 at 21:18

A primary source is great, but sometimes it's faster and easier to type up an answer from a wiki -- and even then, often, the wiki is citing an episode of a TV show or a scene in a book. In my case, I don't do eBooks, so it can be harder to dig out a book than to link to the Wiki (which may even quote the book). And for video, like film and TV shows, it's also easier to link to the wiki for support rather than pull out a DVD. (And I often may cite the scene after having just watched it for proof, but still link to the wiki.)

So I don't think it's always an either/or situation. Sometimes the Wiki points us to where the answer is, or we can cite it for facts we may know but can't immediately document. (For example, if someone asks what color a Vulcan's blood is, we may not remember the first episode that is stated, but can find it easily in a wiki.)

  • 1
    I don't mind so much if the wiki gives citations, so to speak, but I've found the HP and LotR ones specifically tend to paraphrase what is understood without reference to where it's stated unfortunately.
    – dlanod
    Jan 27, 2012 at 7:56

It's absolutely fine to have a personal bias like that (I share this to a certain extent,and try to do it in my own answers).

The way that you indicate this is that you vote up answers that do contain these references. I guess if you feel extremely strongly about it, you might down-vote answers that don't have the references (leaving a comment to indicate why), although that seems excessive to me.

You can also edit answers to include references to the primary source (or post an alternative answer if that's more appropriate). I wouldn't do this just to replace a link to a wiki, but I do if I feel that it will strengthen the answer, and that it was likely that the original answerer would have done so if they had the material at hand.

It is notably more work to get references to an original source. With books, you can pull quotes from Amazon's "Search Inside" in many cases (and from Google's equivalent in many fewer). However, it's still much more work, and this can't be done with every book. If you have an electronic copy of the book, this is considerably simpler (searching and copy and paste!), but, especially with older books, this isn't particularly likely.

TV episodes and films are even more difficult. As far as I know, there isn't any legal equivalent for scripts (e.g. a "Search Inside this DVD" on Amazon), although that would be awesome! That means you're stuck with transcribing yourself (requires access to the material, it's slow, and it's a lot of work) or finding a script/transcript online (which is almost certainly illegal).

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