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Academic Integrity

Guide to having academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism

Tips for Deciding - Common Knowledge Grey Areas

For those instances where it could be common knowledge--or not--depending on the situation, ask yourself the following questions to help decide if you need a citation:

Who is your audience?  What does your reader already know?

  • Are you writing a paper for a course in your major and using terms/concepts that your professor expects you to know and understand?
  • Are you writing a paper for a general education course, tying in a concept from your major that your professor might not be familiar with?

In the first case, you might not need a citation, but in the second you should probably include one.


Will your audience/reader wonder where you found the information--and/or question whether it is correct?

  • When you write that "college students should do their homework," most people would agree with that and not question it.
  • If you write, "80% of college students are satisfied with their grades," most people would want to know where you found that information since it sounds like the result of a survey or the findings of a research study.

The second example is a statistic, and that is one of the categories of information that always needs a citation.


Please contact the Library, the Learning Center, and/or your professor if you need help determining what is and is not common knowledge.