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Resources about why plagiarism matters and how to avoid it.

Common Knowledge

If you ever have questions about what is and is not common knowledge, ask your professor, the Writing Center, or a librarian.

You don't have to cite something that is considered common knowledge. HOWEVER. It is important to remember that what is considered "common knowledge" varies depending on the type of assignment, the context in which you are writing, and who your audience is. Additionally, it's important to note that even though you know something, that doesn't necessarily make it common knowledge. 

Good rule of thumb: If you can find it uncited in 5+ sources, it's probably common knowledge. 



  • Ovens are hot
  • Students generally need to study to do well in college
  • Penguins live in Antarctica


Conversely, consider these very specific examples that are NOT common knowledge and DO need to be cited:

  • "Typically cooking process in wood-fired ovens is based on radiative heat transfer as a predominant mode, with a temperature  of  the  dome  and  bed  respectively  equal  to  430°C  and  485°C  and  with  a  cooking  time  not  exceeding  ninety seconds" (Ciarmiello & Morrone, 2016, p. 1011).
    • Ciarmiello, M., & Morrone, B. (2016). Why not using electric ovens for Neapolitan pizzas? A thermal analysis of a high temperature electric pizza oven. Energy Procedia 101, 1010-1017.
    • This is a direct quotation from a scholarly journal article.


  • Skimming is a critical skill for studying quickly and efficiently because it allows you to pick up the main idea of a text and see how much of the material you are already familiar with (Mundsack, Deese J., Deese E., & Morgan, 2003, p. 55).
    • Mundsack, A., Deese, J., Deese, E. K., & Morgan, C. T. (2003). How to Study : And Other Skills for Success in College (5th ed). New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from 
    • This sentence is paraphrased from one paragraph from an ebook.


  • "A Capitals fan recently took trolling the Penguins (and penguins) to new heights in the world's southernmost continent" (Allen, 2018) by visiting Antarctica wearing a Capitals jersey.
    • Allen, S. (2018, November 15).  A Caps fan traveled to Antarctica to remind the penguins who won the Stanley Cup. The Washington Post. Retrieved from
    • This sentence combines a direct quotation from a newspaper article with the author's own words.