Wikipedia is a fantastic resource for gaining general information about a topic, and it is especially useful as a jumping-off point for research. However, as a database which anyone can edit, Wikipedia is not an appropriate source for research papers and articles.
While not recognized as a formal source, Wikipedia is generally correct, and it is overseen by editors and page moderators. While these contributors are not employees of the organization, they must adhere to policies of accuracy and objectivity. Failure to do so can result in dismissal. Despite their status as unpaid contributors, editors and moderators often have a measure of personal investment in their topic and position which creates an incentive to provide high quality and factual work.
Despite these policies, Wikipedia is not perfect and occasionally contains false information submitted either by accident, as a joke, or for personal or political gain. For these reasons, it is not considered a legitimate source.
Wikipedia articles contain many links to outside sources which can be used as citations. These links are included in the text and are collected at the bottom of the page. For this reason, Wikipedia is an excellent place to begin research. Entries are written in an accessible and simplified style, and broken down into easily navigable sub-topics. Wikipedia also includes internal links to provide clarification on obscure topics.