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Library Research Skills for Land and Food Systems

Common knowledge

How can I use this?

Understanding the bounds of what is common knowledge helps you figure out what you need to cite in your paper.

What is common knowledge?
The first strategy involves asking yourself a question: Is this information common knowledge? So how do you tell if information is common knowledge? Simply defined, common knowledge is information that is generally known by many people.


Some examples of common knowledge:

  • The earth is round.
  • The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
  • It is cold in the winter in Saskatchewan.

An example of material that is not common knowledge:

  • From 1961-1990, the average temperature in July in Vancouver, British Columbia has been 17 degrees Celsius. (The Weather Network 2003) [1]

Common knowledge can sometimes be a hard thing to figure out. If you're uncertain if a fact is common knowledge or not, ask your instructor or a librarian.

How do I treat common knowledge vs. uncommon knowledge in a paper?
  • If the information is common knowledge, you do not have to cite the fact or material that you are referring to.
  • If the information is not common knowledge, you must cite the material/fact by paraphrasing, quoting, or summarizing if you wish to include it in your paper.

Literature Cited:

1. ↑ The Weather Network. 2003. Weather statistics [online]. Available from http://www.theweathernetwork.com/index.php?product=statistics&pagecontent=C02096 [accessed 22 May 2012].