How to fact-check Wikipedia entries in 5 steps

Wikipedia is the world’s most-used reference, with more than 500 million monthly readers. And because it's open to editing from everyone, there are plenty of opportunities to fact-check the world's encyclopedia.

Each fact in Wikipedia is supposed to be supported by a citation that meets its Reliable Sources guidelines — essentially, a verifiable source that has some sort of editorial process and is independent of the topic in question. Content that gets added without an appropriate citation is often removed quickly by Wikipedia’s community of volunteer editors (“Wikipedians”). Sometimes, though, a Wikipedian will instead add a “Citation Needed” tag to a particular statement.

The “Citation Needed” tag is designed to encourage another Wikipedian to determine the accuracy of the statement by seeking out reliable sources on the topic. If it’s accurate, the Wikipedian will simply add a citation to the reliable source. If it’s not accurate, the Wikipedian will either edit the sentence in question to make it accurate and cite a source or delete it. This process encourages fact-checking on Wikipedia, and it’s something you can do to celebrate International Fact-Checking Day!

Becoming a Wikipedian is easy:

1. Create a Wikipedia account if you don’t have one already. Just click the “Create account” link in the upper-right corner of the homepage.

2. Once you’ve logged in, go to the Citation Hunt tool. This will give you a sentence from a Wikipedia article with the “Citation Needed” tag, and it’s available in 20 languages.

3. Do some research to determine if the sentence in question is accurate, according to reliable sources.

4. If it is not accurate, click the “edit” button on the section, delete the fact in question, and put in your edit summary, “Remove uncited claim, I cannot find literature to support #FactCheckIt” — or edit the sentence to be accurate and follow step No. 5.

5. If it is accurate, find a source that meets Wikipedia’s Reliable Sources guidelines. Click the “edit” button on the section where the fact is listed, then click “cite” and follow the directions to cite a source. Save the page. When you’re prompted to add an edit summary, write “Added citation #FactCheckIt.”

Adding the #FactCheckIt hashtag will enable us to track the impact of this initiative, so be sure to include it!

Feel free to repeat the steps to add more citations to facts. While we encourage you to participate specifically on April 2, facts can be updated any time, so don’t feel restricted to just participating then.

  • LiAnna Davis
  • |
  • March 21, 2017

LiAnna Davis is the Director of Programs and Deputy Director for Wiki Education. In her role, LiAnna is responsible for ensuring the core programmatic work (Classroom Program, Community Engagement, and Educational Partnerships) achieves high impact. She also oversees technical tools, communication materials, data science and support from Content Experts.

With more than seven years' experience in running programs connecting Wikipedia and academia, LiAnna is one of the world's leading experts in teaching with Wikipedia. LiAnna has played a pivotal role in creating Wikipedia education programs in eight countries worldwide and supported the work of volunteers in more than 50 additional countries. She has a master's degree in Communication, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University and a bachelor's in Communication Studies from the University of Puget Sound.