Readers' FAQ


This FAQ page addresses some concerns and questions readers may have about Wikipedia.

See also: Reader's guide to Wikipedia

What is Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia which is free to use and edit. It is available in many different languages and on many devices. The content of Wikipedia is free to reproduce under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA) and the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), except for some images.

Who writes Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is written and edited by volunteers from around the world. If you wish to help, you can start by visiting our introduction for contributors.

How to access Wikipedia?

It is possible to access Wikipedia with several different methods, including options for older devices and modern apps for various platforms.

Is Wikipedia censored?

Wikipedia uses the minimum of censorship. Generally, only gratuitous explicit (pornographic) images are removed. The community of Wikipedia editors determine what text and images are displayed, so there may be material that offends some people. There may be those who are offended, shocked or disgusted by medical images, nudity, religious imagery and controversial images.

How do I search Wikipedia?

There is a search box in the upper-right corner of the screen, with the word Search in it. Just type what you are looking for into the search box and press ↵ Enter.

How do I do research with Wikipedia?

Wikipedia can be a great tool for learning and researching information. However, as with all reference works, not everything in Wikipedia is accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased.

What is the license agreement on the contents of Wikipedia?

Wikipedia articles are all free content and their text is covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA) and in most cases the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). See Wikipedia:Copyrights.

May I mirror entire sections of the Wikipedia to my site? How much may I quote?

Yes, you may mirror or quote the text as much as you wish, as long as you fulfill the requirements of the CC-BY-SA or GNU Free Documentation License. See Wikipedia:Copyrights.

If I link a word from my site to Wikipedia, am I required to use the GNU FDL for my site?

No. Linking is not an act regulated by copyright, so the CC-BY-SA and GNU FDL does not apply.

What if I use a small quote (three or four sentences)?

This may be covered by the fair use doctrine.

What if I quote entire articles?

Check with your lawyer, or just put the site under the CC-BY-SA or GNU FDL. However, Wikipedians try to assume good faith, so minor copyright violations are unlikely to result in a lawsuit.

Can I get Wikipedia on CD, or download it for offline use?

The entire text of the English Wikipedia (as of January 2012) can be downloaded in the OpenZIM format, which can be read using the free Kiwix software, available for Mac, Windows, Linux, and Sugar.
The Version 1.0 Editorial Team works on publishing sets of Wikipedia articles in print, CD, DVD, or some combination thereof. In 2008, SOS Children published a Wikipedia CD Selection for schools, which may be viewed at schools-wikipedia.org, and is available for free download via the charity's website.
The database can be downloaded here, but you will need to set up a web server, PHP, MySQL and our wiki software, MediaWiki, to make use of it.
See also meta:Offline Projects.

How do I cite a Wikipedia article in a paper?

Cite it as you would any other web page in accordance with the normal citation practice the publication you are submitting the paper to follows. Citing the individual authors is not necessary, but you should at least include the date on which you retrieved the article (and ideally the full timestamp from the history).
Wikipedia has a tool to generate citations for particular articles. For the cite tool, see Special:Cite, or follow the "Cite this page" link in the toolbox on the left of the page in the article you wish to cite.

What should I do when I find a factual error in Wikipedia?

You should correct it. Wikipedia is written by volunteers who believe knowledge should be free for everyone, and the community is always ready to welcome new volunteers.
Because Wikipedia is an all-volunteer project that anyone can edit, errors or omissions can and do creep in. This should be kept in mind when reading; the very nature of Wikipedia means it should not be trusted completely. Articles frequently contain citations of authoritative works where a reader can verify the information found.
If you see that something can't be right but are not sure what the correct information is, you can signal the problem on the article's talk page: click the tab labeled "talk" on the top of the page, and next click the tab "new section".

Why do I see commercial ads at Wikipedia?

Wikipedia is funded by donations and does not display any advertisements of any kind on any pages within Wikipedia's website. If you see any kind of ads, something on your end or in between will be placing them. Some browser extensions or plugins can do this - for example, Codec-C, Genieo, and InfoAtoms. Codec-C is marketed as needed to play videos. Your computer may also be infected with malware, which will commonly result in advertisements being placed within the websites that you visit. Installing and scanning your computer for infections using anti-malware software will usually resolve this issue. You may also be viewing a mirror or fork of Wikipedia that is hosted by someone else and not the Wikimedia Foundation. These unofficial forks have sometimes been reported to contain advertising or other content. The best way to resolve this matter is to verify that the URL that you're currently navigated to within Wikipedia begins with the following URL: https://en.wikipedia.org/. If you're unsure if this is the issue, simply copy the bold text and use your browser to navigate there. There may also have been inappropriate edits to Wikipedia that may have appeared as an advertisement. Such edits are against Wikipedia's policies and guidelines and should be removed upon discovery.

Where can I get more information about using Wikipedia?

See: Reader's guide to Wikipedia.



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