What Is Common Knowledge? Does It Help Avoid Plagiarism?

Plagiarism has become a widely known disciplinary offence today. Everyone who has undergone some kind of writing knows about content duplication, and how to avoid doing it. Using plagiarism checkers and providing proper citations will help you reduce the likeliness of your content being flagged for copied content. However, there are certain situations where a citation is not necessary. For example, when you are writing commonly known facts like, “Water boils at hundred degrees Celsius”. Everyone knows this fact as it is common knowledge and it cannot be changed or altered in any way.

Identifying Common Knowledge

At first, the idea of common knowledge seems very easy to understand and implement, but when you start writing, you will not be sure about some facts, whether they are common knowledge or not. For better understanding, let us take Italy’s staple dish, which is ragu’ alla Bolognese. People in Italy may know this for it is common knowledge for them and a national pride, but the same cannot be said for people from other countries. Therefore, before we classify some information as a well-known fact, we must analyze certain things such as:

  • Target Audience

When you are writing a research paper or blog, it is important to know your target audience as it will help you write effectively. You can segregate your target audience based on the following:

A. Age Group: You need to think about your audience when writing content on any topic. You can ask yourself whether your reader can comprehend the content of your article. If your target audience are middle school students, then you need to write things that they can understand.

B. Nationality: It is clear from the example given above that things which might be considered common knowledge in some countries may not be considered so in others. Therefore, think whether your facts surprise your audience or they may question your ideas or argument. Asking these questions to yourself will help you identify common knowledge.

C. Profession: A person’s profession can say a lot about what he or she knows. If you are expecting accountants to read your article, then things like golden rules of accounting are common knowledge for them.

  • Accuracy of Information

Accuracy of information is the most important thing that you need to consider. When you write, you find yourself referring a lot of sources such as academic journals, newspapers, articles, and so on. It is always a good idea to verify the resources, and try to derive your information or data from a trusted and verified source as such data are prone to questioning. If there are restrictions on using information from certain sources, you can either avoid using them or provide citations for it allows the user to verify the data.

When Should You Cite Common Knowledge?

In general, it is optional to provide citations to common knowledge as we cannot change it in any shape or form. All you can do to avoid duplication is to paraphrase the facts, but there is a limit to it. However, in certain cases it is better to provide valid citations. Some of them are:

  1. Common Knowledge Specific to Certain Community: In case you write something general like food or travel, there may be cases where you may have to write something technical or about a specific culture. This information may not be well-known among certain people and they might require further reading. In such a case, it is better to provide citation and allow your reader to verify this information.
  2. Contradicting Information: In some cases, the data that is available on the Internet may differ across multiple websites. Ifthis is the case, always provide citations to your references. Also note that if there are at least five websites that provided the same data as you did, then providing references is optional.
  3. Availability of Information: If you are not sure whether to cite your references or not, then ask yourselves whether the information is readily available. If the user can simply put the word on any search engine and find the information about it, then it can be considered as common knowledge. If not, you must provide proper citations.

Does Knowing About Common Knowledge Help Avoid Plagiarism?

To answer this question, we need to establish what constitutes plagiarism. The main idea of plagiarism is not to question the originality of the work, but to make sure that someone does not steal any content. This shows that the person can use ideas and concepts from another person’s article or paper provided that he or she credits the original work. With this in mind, let us explore whether understanding about common knowledge helps prevent plagiarism.

Knowing what can be considered common knowledge helps a lot as it allows the writer to decide whether to provide citations or not. There are quite a lot of cases where the content is flagged for plagiarism just because the author thought that the information provided is known everyone. These situations could be avoided if you have a clear picture about the facts you are writing, and for whom you are writing. Taking the above given facts into consideration is crucial for any writer as it helps him or her to structure the paper accordingly.

There are many challenges that writers have to face while they try to write and publish their work. There is a lot of effort and time put into every article you write, and it hurts to see such efforts going in vain. Whether it may be a research paper or an academic paper, problems like plagiarism can cause a severe dent in your career. This is why a writer has to be aware of plagiarism, and the ways to avoid it. Being able to use plagiarism scanners, and knowing about common knowledge can be very helpful to avoid the issues of copying others’ ideas and improve your writing. Now that you know what is common knowledge, so use it appropriately in your paper to write effectively. 

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