For Students

Wikipedia as a source in academic writing

Have you ever heard of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi?

Pestalozzi was a Swiss educationalist – he had interesting ideas for progressive education – at the start of the nineteenth century he was advocating an enlightened approach to schooling.  

Perhaps in a future blog I will further discuss Pestalozzi but the topic I have set out above is Wikipedia and I have introduced Pestalozzi as an example to support a point I wish to make.

Could I invite you the reader to open a new tab and look up Pestalozzi in Wikipedia.  

There you will find an excellent illustrated article containing biographical details and illustrations.  It is a good place to start if you wish to find out more about this influential thinker.  

Notice that the bottom of the entry there is a list of references and links for further reading (I have inserted these below).  Starting with these references and links you now have a means to explore the writings of Pestalozzi and commentary thereon.

For me this is the best use of Wikipedia – I find it a great starting point and signpost to other materials.

Is Wikipedia itself an appropriate source?   In other words, if I write an essay should I cite Wikipedia as my source?  I believe that, for academic purposes, Wikipedia is not an adequate source.  My main reason is the lack of visibility of the writers.  

Each time I use Wikipedia I can make my own judgment as to whether the information is accurate and useful – I base this on other readings and resources.  I would be very reluctant to put forward an idea and to suggest that my source for this is a page on Wikipedia.  There is always someone somewhere who is the source and it is always better to go back to the original.  

Still – its a fantastic resource and an excellent place to start if you need to find out about something or someone – did I mention Pestalozz – look him up in Wikipedia but don’t stop there!  


Considerably more late-twentieth-century scholarly work on Pestalozzi has been published in the German language than in English.

  • Biber, George Eduard. Henry Pestalozzi and his Plan of Education. Orig. pub. London: John Souter, School Library, 1831. Repub. ISBN 1-85506-272-0. Among the earliest and probably the most influential 19th-century account of Pestalozzi’s work in English, this was widely read in America (for instance, by Bronson Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson) and in England. Contains translated excerpts from many of Pestalozzi’s works.
  • Silber, Kate. Pestalozzi: The Man and his Work. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1960. ISBN 0-7100-2118-6. Written by a German-speaking lifelong Pestalozzi scholar, this remains the most recent complete biography in English.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

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