BK Writing Lab

Common Knowledge - When Citing Isn't Necessary
Paul DiGeorgio, Ph.D.


When you are in doubt about whether you should cite or not, it is safest to just cite it or check with your instructor. However as you develop as a writer it is important to learn when to cite and when doing so is inappropriate.

Here are a few scenarios where you do not necessarily need to cite:

1. You refer to something that is “common knowledge,” which is general information that you could expect educated people to know.

Example: The St. Johns River is a large river that runs through Jacksonville, Florida.

Note: “Common knowledge” is often relative. For example, what is common knowledge for a sociologist is not necessarily common knowledge for an art historian, a lawyer, an anthropologist, or a physicist. As a general rule, if you have to look it up, then you need cite it.

2. You provide information that can be easily looked up in a reference source.

Example: In 2010 the population of Jacksonville was about 823,000.

Note: This does not mean that you should cite reference sources, especially dictionaries and encyclopedias. Check with your instructor but typically these sources are not considered to be “scholarly” sources.

3. You provide information that is mentioned in many sources (5+).


If you have any questions, send us an email at bkwritinglab@bishopkennyhs.org!


Image Credit: Knowledge by Vectors Point from the Noun Project

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