In academic writing, “common knowledge” is material that an intelligent reader would accept without citation.


Common knowledge is divided into two types:



This includes information shared by a national or cultural group, or by scholars in a particular field of study.


In academic writing, sources must be cited, while common knowledge does not.



Examples of adage


Common knowledge includes:




It excludes:



Definitions and arguments. Provide a citation if a claim is debatable.


Here are some examples of subtle distinctions:






Students often employ the APA citation style.


This is undeniable reality. It is well known.


Social sciences, business, and nursing employ APA Style.


This is certainly standard knowledge for readers familiar with research. You may need to cite it for a wider audience.


APA is utilized in around 90,000 articles annually.


Undisputed fact, although credited to one or more sources.


Do I need to cite?


Common knowledge does not require citation because it is widely accepted, indisputable, easily confirmed, and often unattributed.


It’s tempting to cite every sentence to avoid plagiarism, yet this can damage your academic writing. If you’re not sure if something is common knowledge, ask yourself the questions below.


What do I know about my reader?


Are you writing for laypeople or experts?


In academic writing, you can presume your reader is an expert and a certain level of common knowledge. But if you use material from another field, cite it.


Could my reader disagree?


If your assertion surprises, confuses, or contradicts other evidence, it isn’t common knowledge and requires a citation.


It’s probably common knowledge if everyone in the field agrees on it.


Can my reader simply cross-reference this claim?


Can you quickly identify more than five scholarly publications that provide the same information? If so, it’s probably well-known.


If some of the search results conflict or you need to delve deeper, provide a source.


Why do students prefer Scribbr’s proofreading?


Editing and proofreading


Knowledge test


FAQs regarding plagiarism


Dare I state the obvious?


How can I summarize without plagiarizing?


Is it possible to plagiar


What is plagiarism?