21 Common Knowledge

There is only one exception to the rule about citing information from others, and that is common knowledge.

What is common knowledge?

Key Takeaways

General common knowledge is information:

  • That can be verified easily and consistently in several different sources
  • That many people are believed to know
  • Examples:
    • capital cities, important historical dates and persons, basic mathematics, common sense observations
  • This information does not need to be cited


Besides general common knowledge, there is also information that is so well-known within a field of study that it is considered common knowledge WITHIN this particular field. However, as this information would not be common knowledge OUTSIDE of this field, it is better that you cite it in order to avoid the possibility of plagiarizing.

Key Takeaways

Discipline specific common knowledge is:

  • Information that is well known only within a specific field of study
  • It is NOT considered common knowledge outside of the specific discipline

To determine what is common knowledge can be tricky, so when in doubt, cite!


Test your understanding

Have a look at the following statements and decide whether they would need to be cited or not.

It is always better to cite if you are unsure if something is common knowledge.


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