I am writing a PhD thesis in robotics and I was wondering if it sounds good to start a phrase with: 'According to Wikipedia ...'
Do you think I can do that or not?
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"According to some unknown guy on the Internet, I can say that according to Wikipedia..."
No, you should avoid that. Wikipedia is open, so it can be changed by (almost) everyone and you have no guarantee that the given information there is correct. While many articles are very informative, it might be better to take the actual source (given on the Wikipedia page) and make sure that this source is credible (e.g. published in a good, peer reviewed journal).
I think that Dirk’s answer is highly misleading and represents a popular, but false view of the website. Investigations have shown that Wikipedia contains as many or fewer statements of incorrect fact on scientific and technical matters as more traditional encyclopedias like Encyclopedia Britannica (though "mistakes by omission" are more common on Wikipedia). Just because Wikipedia can be edited by anyone doesn’t mean it’s unreliable. Additionally, just because anyone can add content doesn’t mean that there are no controls on content, nor does it mean that there aren’t people or systems for double checking edits.
However, it is correct that one shouldn’t cite Wikipedia because Wikipedia (like most encyclopedias) is a tertiary source and has a strict “no original research” policy. Encyclopedias are summaries of information, but don't contain original research by design and are not the original source of the content. You should always cite the original source of the content, not a reproduction of it. If you wish to credit an encyclopedia with drawing your attention to the material, you can append "accessed via Wikipedia" to a citation, which I've seen done in some published scholarly books and journal articles.
In case of scientific articles, the references are usually either published books and/or articles and papers from scientific journals and conferences. In either case, you should be able to follow them and reference the Wikipedia article (or the section of your choice) back to any of these original sources, and then cite that original source in your thesis. That makes for a valid and accepted citation instead of something that someone might have randomly written on the day you checked the article.
Depending on the reason for the citation it could be perfectly fine. For example, if you simply want to use the encyclopedia definition to start your introduction:
According to Wikipedia robotics deals with the design, construction, operation, and use of robots, as well as computer systems for their control, sensory feedback, and information processing. The subject of this thesis ...
There is nothing wrong with this (besides maybe the lack of creativity: citing an encyclopedia is used very often in introductions). However, note that Wikipedia cites an original source for this definition under , so in this case it is probably preferable to cite the original (the Oxford dictionary in this example).
However, if your purpose is to use wikipedia as a source of factual (scientific) information it is not a good idea.
No, you should not. Wikipedia is not a scientific source. The scientific source is the primary peer-reviewed reference that wikipedia's articles cite.
You can (and should) use Wikipedia for a general understanding of a concept, but you should (read and) cite the primary source of the particular concept.
Finally, I would avoid writing "According to X, Y leads to Z" altogether and instead write "Y leads to Z because ...[citeX1, citeX2]". "According to X" is an authoritative argument.
In addition to the other arguments: Citing web sources is a problem, because you do not know if they stay online and if they will be changed in the future. Wikipedia is a bit better than other websites, as they have a clear edit history and citing with date
accessed on ... is possible. But you're still relying on the article being still there. For deleted articles there is no (easy to view) history.
Do you mean can you cite Wikipedia or can you use the phrase "according to Wikipedia"? Of course citing Wikipedia is not recommended since it can be highly inaccurate [look at e.g. Loudwire's "Wikipedia: Fact or Fiction" YouTube series where bands go through their history on the site and tell the interviewer what is true and what is false].
Using the phrase, "according to Wikipedia..." is of course absolutely fine, though I would suffix your information with a caveat that the citation is unreliable. You could also cite another piece of related information from a more reliable source, and make a reliability comparison.
Ultimately though, it's best to avoid citing Wikipedia altogether. If it is the only place the information you can find is cropping up, then it is most likely false.