100 Wikipedia Alternatives

Reference Websites for College Students (and for Everyone Else, Too.)

by Will Roby and Randy Ray

This list of 100 alternatives to Wikipedia includes many sources reliable enough to cite in scholarly work. Our goal was to put together a list of reference websites for college students that are better alternatives than the Wikipedia. (Not all of the Wikipedia alternatives below are suitable to cite in a scholarly work though.)

Wikipedia AlternativesWikipedia started out as an experiment, and now it's one of the most popular websites in the world. Anyone can access and edit the information on the Wikipedia, an open source encyclopedia. Since anyone can edit the information at any time, Wikipedia is no more appropriate for scholarly research or reference than a message board. Sometimes the information at Wikipedia is accurate, but sometimes it's not.

Online Encyclopedias

Believe it or not, other online encyclopedias besides the Wikipedia exist. Here are some of the better ones.

  1. Citizendium - An open wiki founded by Wikipedia's Larry Sanger, Citizendium falls somewhere between Wikipedia's totally open source package and Scholarpedia's invite-only method. Citizendium is peer-reviewed, but not as strictly as Scholarpedia.
  2. Digital Universe - A directory and encyclopedia organized into subject specific portals. Their site is focused on accuracy and accessibility.
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica Online - This site doesn't follow the wiki model at all, but it is a reliable and citable source for facts. Every volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica exists here, in an online format with easy to use search tools. A year's subscription will set your back around $70.
  4. Encyclopedia.com - When you search at encyclopedia.com, you can find information, definitions of words, and other facts by searching dozens of online reference tools at the same time. Search the Columbia Encyclopedia, Webster's New world Dictionary, medical reference books, and tons of other resources with a single search.
  5. FactMonster - A reference source for kids, FactMonster contains basic details on subjects like math, geography, and sports. The site also includes games and puzzles to keep the mood light.
  6. Infoplease -This online encyclopedia is totally free thanks to Pearson Education, a textbook distributor. Information at Infoplease comes from reliable sources like the Random House Unabridged Dictionary. It's not open source like Wikipedia, but it is a respected collection of data.
  7. RefDesk - Calling itself a “fact check for the Internet,” RefDesk collects different online resources under one roof, allowing you to search the Internet, check newspaper headlines, look info up on various encyclopedias and dictionaries, and read the news all from the same site.
  8. Scholarpedia - Built on the same package as Wikipedia, MediaWiki, Scholarpedia is an invitation-only encyclopedia site edited by experts. Unlike Wikipedia, Scholarpedia is peer-reviewed and all content is attributed to specific authors.
  9. Vaughn's 1 Pagers - A collection of general reference material based on whatever Vaughn Aubuchon, the author, is interested in at any given time. Much of the material summarizes information that isn't available elsewhere on the Internet, which makes it even more valuable.
  10. World Book Online - This one requires a subscription, but it's an excellent encyclopedia that most people of my generation are already familiar with. This is an especially good resource for younger students and researchers.

Library Sites

Alternatives to WikipediaLibrary sites offer some of the most reliable reference material on the Internet. These are not just websites for actual libraries--some of them are virtual Internet libraries that include the full text of various books.

  1. eBrary - More than 20,000 full books are available at eBrary on every topic from academic journals to and general interest texts. Accessing eBrary is like visiting a major university library from your home.
  2. The Free Library - Over 18,000,000 books and articles make up the collection of The Free Library.
  3. ibiblio - ibiblio is a massive collection of information in the public domain. Browse thousands of maps, photos, books, and other links all for free.
  4. Internet Public Library - The closest thing to a real library online, Internet Public Library is a collection of reference materials and links, The site even has an awesome "ask a librarian" section where you can get real answers from IPL employees.
  5. LibrarySpot - This collection of library resources is similar to eBrary but geared toward students. Links to free encyclopedias and other reference materials make LibrarySpot a must-bookmark site for students.
  6. Literature.org - Looking for an online copy of some of the world's great literature? Literature.org hosts classic books from writers as diverse as Willa Cather, Stephen Crane, and Lucy Maude Montgomery.
  7. The Online Books Page - Thousands of books are available to read and download for free, but without The Online Books Page, finding them can be a hassle. The Online Books Page gathers them all in one searchable index.
  8. Oxford Journals - A collection of links to every journal published by Oxford University Press, from Alcohol & Alcoholism to the Yearbook of European Law. Each journal has several articles that are free for viewing and downloading.
  9. Questia - Questia hosts the world's largest online collection of books, articles, and other library resources. Put together and edited by trained librarians, Questia's 76,000 full text books and millions of scholarly articles are great sources for research papers.
  10. WorldCat - The world's largest library catalog, WorldCat lets you search libraries all over the world to figure out where to find the resources you need. WorldCat lets you search for books and periodicals in thousands of libraries at once.

User-Contributed Reference Sites

Reference WebsitesWikipedia is the biggest example of a site where the content is user-contributed, but there are plenty of user-contributed reference sites to choose from besides Wikipedia.

  1. Duno - User generated content from amateurs and professionals alike, Duno.com is short for "I don't know." Contributors to duno.com get paid for the information they share thanks to an advertising program.
  2. eHow - At eHow.com, regular Joes like you and me share their knowledge. That means that eHow contains a wide variety of expertise. Search for information on arts and crafts, scholarly research, and even extreme sports and mixed martial arts.
  3. Greekopedia - Since this list of Wikipedia alternatives is aimed at current and future college students, check out hundreds of articles on fraternity and sorority life at Greekopedia. Trust us, you'll want to know all about the Greeks, whether you're a frat boy or not.
  4. Instructables - Instructables hosts how-to videos on a huge range of topics. Unlike WikiHow, the content at Instructables must have a video to go along with it.
  5. Internet Encyclopedia - Another universal wiki based content encyclopedia, Internet Encyclopedia (also known as Wikinfo) is different from Wikipedia in that it encourages the inclusion of unique research and opinions. It also requires that its editors provide objective and not opinion based content.
  6. Open-Site - Similar to Wikipedia, Open-Site is a free encyclopedia online with content contributed by users and lightly moderated by volunteer editors.
  7. wikiFAQ - Free FAQs on every topic under the sun are in the collection of wikiFAQ. Anyone can edit and contribute to any FAQ on the site, which uses light moderation to maintain accuracy.
  8. WikiHow - More than 120,000 unique how-to articles make up the bulk of the information at WikiHow. Think of it as Wikipedia for how-to manuals.
  9. Wincyclopedia - Their slogan "Your directory to everything" is just about 100% true. Categories like "Health" and "Society" are further broken down into subcategories for quick browsing.
  10. wikiHealth - Applying the wiki model to health concerns, wikiHealth is like having a million people's medical experience and opinions in one easily searchable database. Doctors, patients, and everyone in between come together to share their health and medical knowledge.

Science & Math Reference Websites

Reference SitesThe Internet has traditionally been a hangout for geeks and nerds, so it's no surprise that science and math reference websites are easy to find.

  1. Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics - On the Encyclopedia of Astronomy and Astrophysics, you can look up definitions of astronomy terms and details about famous astronomers.
  2. Encyclopedia of Earth - A totally free expert reviewed and edited collection of resources about the earth, its environment, its history, and its future. Encyclopedia of Earth is made up mostly of scholarly articles and reviews of everything you could ever learn about the Earth.
  3. Encyclopedia of Life - Enter the name of a living thing you want to learn more about in Encyclopedia of Life's search box, and bang you've got a wealth of knowledge at your fingertips. A big archive of info on every sort of plant, animal, fungus, and bacteria living on Earth.
  4. HowStuffWorks - Not just good for factual information, HowStuffWorks can fill you in on all the details about the inner workings of your toaster or that nuclear power plant in your neighborhood.
  5. The Internet Encyclopedia of Science - Astronomer David Darling runs this collection of A-Z references on a huge collection of science topics. The Internet Encyclopedia of Science also includes the Encyclopedia of Alternative Energy & Sustainable Living and the Encyclopedia of History.
  6. NatureServe Explorer - Calling itself "an online encyclopedia of life," NatureServe Explorer lets you look up information on every species of bird, insect, mammal, and more.
  7. Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences - This site is designed to be easily searchable, and for math nerds of all varieties there's no easier way to look up information on number sequences.
  8. Physics Encyclopedia - Physics Encyclopedia is the place to go for definitions of physics terms and links to physics resources online.
  9. PhysLink.com - As the science of physics becomes more relevant, it's more difficult to stay up to date on things like string theory. This site is a global resource for all things physics.
  10. PlantCare.com - With a plant encyclopedia and active user forum, plantcare.com is the place to go to learn about plants and their proper care and maintenance.

Fine Arts Reference Materials

The Internet is not just for science nerds. The arts are well-represented on the Internet, too, and the following fine arts reference materials are also excellent alternatives to the Wikipedia (at least when you're researching a paper for your art appreciation class.)

  1. All Music Guide - A blog, a gigantic collection of album reviews, and a companion site that helps you discover new music are the heart, soul, and brains of All Music Guide. Learn all about new music, classic music, and encyclopedic info about classical music and other styles.
  2. The Artchive - The easiest way to look up quick details and information on artists, their body of artwork, and their history. You can also browse images of art and artists. Consider the Artchive like the IMDB of fine art.
  3. Artcyclopedia - An encyclopedia of fine arts and artists, Artcyclopedia allows you to search by artist, painting, titles, art period, and many other search categories. Helpful when you can only remember part of the name of a piece or art or an artist.
  4. DancePedia - DancePedia is an encyclopedia of links and online resources dedicated to all things dance, from profiles of famous dancers to information on the most current styles and trends in modern dance.
  5. Garland Encyclopedia of World Music - Interested in musical styles from around the world? You'll have to register or be a student at a registered university to access the archives, but the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music is the most thoroughly researched and heavily informative site on world music.
  6. Improv Encyclopedia - Broken up into three sections--improv games, improv resources, and a huge improv glossary, Improv Encyclopedia is the ultimate collection of improv information on the Internet.
  7. Instrument Encyclopedia - The University of Michigan runs Instrument Encyclopedia, a resource of information on all sorts of musical instruments plus links to further online musical instrument resources.
  8. Internet Movie Database - Like an encyclopedia of movies combined with a movie news sites, Internet Movie Database (better known as IMDB) is the ultimate movie resource. Look up details on anyone that ever participated in the movies, from the lowliest camera tech to the most famous movie stars and directors.
  9. Musicals101 - There are literally thousands of encyclopedia entries on all sorts of musicals at Musicals101. Part reference site and part entertainment resource, fans of musicals will spend hours learning the ins and outs of their favorites.
  10. Oxford Music Online - If you're doing any kind of music research, Oxford's Music Online site is the place to start. A sort of gateway to all sorts of music research as well as a clearinghouse for music reference and scholarly articles published by Oxford University Press.

Language, Literature, and Word Resources

Language and Word ResearchDictionaries, thesauri, and other references related to the use of words and language are common on the Internet. Here are some of the best language resources online. A couple of these sites are also related to world literature.

  1. AskOxford - A word and language reference site built on the Oxford English Dictionary, the most trusted word reference in the world. AskOxford also includes grammar tips and the option of asking your grammar or language questions of experts from Oxford.
  2. Bartleby - There are so many great books online at Bartleby, you may find you don't need to buy that textbook or research book for your next college class or research project. Everything from Gray's Anatomy to the latest fiction bestseller are collected all under one roof. Featuring reference, poetry, fiction, and nonfiction books to read for free.
  3. BookRags - A big collection of study guides, essays on books, biographies of writers, and summaries of plots. Like Cliff's Notes online, BookRags is the place to go for a quick brushup before a pop quiz or essay test.
  4. BrainyQuote - BrainyQuote isn't always accurate, either in the wording of the quotes or the citation of the quote itself. Still, when you need a good epigraph or quote to spice up a paper or piece of creative writing, BrainyQuote is an easy to search database of famous quotes.
  5. Dictionary.com - Another free online dictionary, dictionary.com is easy to use and easy on the eyes, though its not nearly as robust as Merriam Webster or the OED online. You can find the basic definitions and spellings of words, as well as a crossword dictionary and a few word games thrown in for good measure.
  6. Encyclopedia Mythica - The largest resource and link collection for all things related to mythology, religion, folklore, and even urban legends. Encyclopedia Mythica is a gorgeous and easy to use online search engine and resource collection about myths and spirituality.
  7. Merriam Webster - The best thing about Merriam Webster's online dictionary is that its free. Users of the online Oxford English Dictionary only have limited access to word references without paying a pretty substantial fee.
  8. Urban Dictionary - A user-contributed resource for slang from all walks of life, Urban Dictionary is a massive reference for words not traditionally found in the dictionary.
  9. Visual Thesaurus - One of the coolest language sites online, Visual Thesaurus is just what the name implies, a thesaurus that maps out synonyms and antonyms visually. Look at a word's synonyms and antonyms using a visual interactive map. Not free, but free to try.
  10. WordReference - A dictionary and reference tool for any word in English, Spanish, Italian, or French. WordReference is a must-bookmark site for students of language and writers alike.

Question & Answer Sites

Question and Answer WebsitesMost question & answer sites are of little use to the academic researcher, but for less serious questions and information, they can be useful alternatives to the Wikipedia.

  1. AllExperts - The first large-scale question and answer site online, AllExperts was founded in 1998 and is still going strong. If you have a question that needs the help of an expert, AllExperts is what you need to get your answer free of charge.
  2. Answerbag - Another user contributed question and answer site with a large archive. Questions here seem to focus on medical, regional shopping, and how to questions. Answerbag is a great place to start your search if you have a specific question.
  3. AOLAnswers - AOLAnswers used to be called Yedda. The name has changed. but the site is the same. Ask any question on any topic and get personalized answers from real people.
  4. Ask a Librarian - The coolest question and answer site online, Ask a Librarian allows you to ask librarians live questions as long as they pertain to research, literature, or other library topics. Many categories have a "live chat" feature connecting you to a librarian of the Library of Congress directly.
  5. Askville - Amazon's Askville is a very active question and answer site with Amazon's large membership as its answer base.
  6. Microsoft Live QnA - At Microsoft Live QnA, you can ask any question you want and hope for some serious answers, although the majority of responses are pranks or on the silly side.
  7. Refseek - A great directory of question and answer sites both small and large, general and topic-specific.
  8. The Straight Dope - Popular blogger and writer Cecil Adams has been running The Straight Dope for years, featuring email questions about anything you can imagine. Cecil Adams and others answer one big question a week and feature it on the main page. The archive is massive. Want to know the purpose of hiccoughs or the average weight of airplane food? Cecil Adams is the guy to ask.
  9. wiseGEEK - WiseGEEK contains 30,000+ articles on tech related questions, from What Is a Cell Phone to how to guides on fixing your laptop or handheld device.
  10. Yahoo! Answers - User contributed questions and answers on every topic under the sun. This Yahoo! sponsored site allows anyone to post a question or an answer, and allows the person asking the question to rank and vote on the responses. Part social media site, part question and answer site.

Internet Must-Have Reference Works

History Reference WebsitesThe following reference works vary in scope, but all of them have one thing in common: They're absolutely essential for inclusion on any list of Internet reference works.

  1. The American Presidency Project - UC Santa Barbara runs The American Presidency Project, a massive resource of information about every American president and vice president. UCSB hosts more than 90,000 documents and provides them free to the public at this site.
  2. Bibliomania - Bibliomania hosts more than 2,000 classic book texts online for you to read, download, and search via their handy index.
  3. Encyclopedia Smithsonian - The complete online collection of everything the Smithsonian Museum system has, Encyclopedia Smithsonian lets users search through 2 million records with images, video and sound files. There are also links to electronic journal articles and other resources from the Smithsonian's collection.
  4. Government Documents Center - The largest collection of government documents in one place, the library of the University of Michigan put this collection together as the best online resource for documents related to the US government.
  5. Martindale's Reference Desk - The Martindale Reference Desk is a no nonsense reference tool broken up into sections like Language, Science, Business, and Mathematics. You can browse the different subject areas easily and have instant access to tens of thousands of links and other resources.
  6. NOLO Legal Dictionary - Calling itself a "plain English law dictionary," NOLO offers definitions for most law terms in plain language. This free legal resource also hosts free and easy to understand legal information on hundreds of commonly used legal procedures.
  7. The Old Farmer's Almanac - The Farmer's Almanac has been published regularly since 1792. The online Old Farmer's Almanac is even more resourceful than the print edition. Use the Old Farmer's Almanac to research tide tables, phases of the moon, weather, planting charts, recipes, and good old-fashioned Farmer's Almanac advice.
  8. The Open Directory Project - DMOZ is the most important Internet directory you've never heard of. The Open Directory Project is a web directory put together and maintained by humans on every topic imaginable, from Arts to Health to Sports. Links are looked over by real people and the site is updated regularly.
  9. Open Library - An ambitious project, Open Library is an Internet archiving project that hopes to put together a Web page for every book ever published. Nothing to sniff at, Open Library has already put together more than 20 million such records, all free to the public.
  10. Wolfram Library Archive - Experimental search engine Wolfram Alpha maintains a large archive at Wolfram Library Archive. There are thousands of viewable and downloadable resources from Wolfram Alpha research. Tied directly to the Wolfram Alpha search engine.

Medical Reference Websites

The Internet is no substitute for the care of a competent physician, but there are plenty of useful medical reference websites available online.

  1. Erowid - Erowid.org is designed for recreational drug users and researchers into recreational drugs. A gigantic compendium of experiences with recreational drug use, chemical structures of said drugs, and even bulletin boards and user forms on all sorts of drugs from the pharmacy to those made at home. This site is probably never going to be useful as a citation in an academic paper, but it has such a large volume of information that it warrants inclusion on the list. (Just keep in mind that it's user-contributed information, so the reliability of the material is questionable.)
  2. Genetics Home Reference - A guide to understanding genetic conditions, Genetics Home Reference is another health resource provided by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
  3. MedicineNet - Their slogan is "We bring doctor's knowledge to you." This WebMD clone (now owned and operated by WebMD) is aimed more at doctor's takes on medical conditions than user contributed resources.
  4. Medline Plus - The National Institutes of Health run this site with basic and more complex medical details, news, and information.
  5. MedScape - Featuring health news, doctor's perspectives on health care, and free reprints and links to scholarly medical journals and other articles, MedScape is a great resource for everyone who ever has to deal with illness or medical care.
  6. Merck Medical Manuals - A huge collection of medical manuals available to medical professionals free of charge. Merck Medical Manuals is the largest such resource in the world.
  7. PDRHealth - This health website is run by the PDR, the Physician's Desk Reference. The association with the PDR gives PDRHealth a little more resonance with people looking for health advice than a site like WebMD.com.
  8. PubChem - The NCBI (The National Center for Biotechnology Information) runs this free resource offering all kinds of details on chemical formulas, structures, and even genetic coding. PubChem is one of the only free resources for this biomedical and genomic information.
  9. RXList - Calling itself "the Internet drug list," RXList is a must-have resource for anyone on prescription medication. RXList has a great feature called the pill identifier, where you put in the imprint on a pill and find out the name, dosage, and other details on any medication you find.
  10. WebMD - One of the most popular health news and resource sites online, WebMD sometimes catches flack for providing medical advice from an authoritative perspective that people may assume is actual medical advice. A huge resource of medical news, a symptom checker, and all sorts of links and resources for people interested in health topics.

Miscellaneous Reference Sites

Library of CongressThese miscellaneous reference sites round out our list of Wikipeda alternatives.

  1. Acronym Finder - Ever come across an acronym that you weren't familiar with? Find any number of professional and amateur acronyms here, with an easy to use search function.
  2. Baseball Reference - Every sort of baseball stat and historical reference on baseball players, teams, and the sport of baseball as a whole is available at Baseball Reference.
  3. Catholic Encyclopedia - The largest collection of information on the Catholic religion is at Catholic Encyclopedia. Useful to more than just Catholics because of the huge impact Catholicism has had on every field on Earth from science to nutrition.
  4. The Educator’s Reference Desk - The Educator's Reference Desk offers teachers and students tens of thousands of reference materials for lesson planning, classroom management, discipline, and a place to blow off steam.
  5. FreeAdvice - Not just for legal problems, FreeAdvice is a unique question and answer site where people go for free advice on topics from picking an outfit for a big date to real estate advice.
  6. Library of Congress - All Americans should have easy access to the Library of Congress website because of the massive amount of resources and information right at your fingertips.
  7. NASA Images - An amazing collection of photographs and artist renderings created for and by NASA. A great resource for desktop photos, screensavers, and beautiful photos to accompany research projects and writing projects.
  8. Snopes - Snopes is more than just a fun place to read about urban legends and myths, it's full of useful information and statistics on a wide variety of topics.
  9. Symbols.com - Tons of information about tens of thousands of symbols, their history, usage, and contemporary meanings at symbols.com.
  10. timeanddate - Historical information organized by time and date is available at--where else?--timeanddate.com. To find out what happened on any day or time in history, check out timeaddate.

The information you find at Wikipedia isn't always accurate and can't be cited in professional or scholarly work. To fact check things you learn on Wikipedia or tp research topics not covered well enough by Wikipedia, try any of the 100 Wikipedia alternatives cited above. Most (but not all) of the links above are citable, edited, and fact-checked by real people.

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