I am writing a paper about Operation Mincemeat for National History Day (I know that I should ask my teacher, but it’s due tomorrow, and school has already ended).

On Wikimedia Commons, there is a picture of an ID card that was part of the operation, and I would like to use that information in my paper. The website says:

Wikimedia Commons is not uniformly peer reviewed; while readers may correct errors or remove erroneous suggestions they have no legal duty to do so and thus all information seen here is without any implied warranty of fitness for any purpose or use whatsoever.

However, images seen like they are more set in stone than other sources of information (I know that photos can be altered, but I know that this one says the correct things because there is also a picture of the card in one of the books that I have, and it matches).

If I cannot use the website, then could I cite the image inside of my book as a primary source found within a secondary source?

  • Kathryn, as I explained to you under another of your questions, each of your questions here should only contain one question. I have therefore deleted your second question, about how to cite an image, from your present question. If you want to know how to cite images, please ask a separate question.
    – Ben
    Jan 11 at 7:56
  • In your case I would consider your image a part of the book and cite it like you would cite a part of the text, that is, you give the book as a source in the reference list (in APA: Montagu, E. (1953). The Man Who Never Was. London: Evans Brothers.) and quote the book in text (in APA: Montagu, 1953, p. [page number]). An image needs a caption under it. There you can describe what the image shows and give the source (e.g. Naval identity card of Major Martin with photograph of Captain Ronnie Reed (Montagu, 1953, p. [page number]).
    – Ben
    Jan 11 at 8:04

1 Answer 1


Wikipedia is not a reliable source, but you can of course cite it. All will depend on the kind of information you quote and what you want to do with it.

If for example you are doing a study on the quality of the information on Wikipedia (comparing Wikipedia articles to expert sources), you will certainly need to cite Wikipedia, but you will not present the information given there as indisputable fact.

In general, Wikipedia is a great source for ideas. That is, if you want an introduction into some topic you can well read a Wikipedia article for some first ideas and then do some research of your own inspired by what you read on Wikipedia, e.g. on Google Scholar, and/or find the sources given in the Wikipedia article and read them yourself.

In your case, when an image on Wikipedia is an unaltered copy of an image in a book – and you have verified that the image is identical to the one in the book by looking in the book –, you can of course use the image on Wikipedia in your article. But then you could just as well use the image from the book and there is not reason to cite from Wikipedia at all!

Wikipedia contains many mistakes and biases in its articles and images, and I would never trust information on Wikipedia without verifying it.

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