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When not to cite in a research paper

Broadly speaking, common knowledge refers to information that the average, educated reader would accept as reliable without having to look it up. Information that most people know, such as that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or that Barack Obama was the first American of mixed race to be elected president.

However, what may be common knowledge in one culture, nation, academic discipline or peer group may not be common knowledge in another. How do I determine if the information I am using is common knowledge? To help you decide whether information can be considered common knowledge, ask yourself: Who is my audience? What can I assume they already know?

What is Common Knowledge?

Will I be asked where I obtained my information? A reference to the practice of fair value accounting would be understood by a group of economists, but would need citation to an audience of non-experts. This is information that would not be known to the average reader, who would want to know where the figure was obtained. The best advice is: When in doubt, cite your source. Which of the following statements would be considered common knowledge?

Citing Your Sources

Which would need to be cited? The Big Bang theory posits that the universe began billions of years ago with an enormous explosion. Hoyle used the term to mock the theory, which he disagreed with. Statement 1 is common knowledge — the Big Bang theory is widely accepted among scientists and the term is used regularly in everyday speech. Statement 2 needs when not to cite in a research paper this information is very specific and may even be unknown to some physicists.

Statement 3 would not need citation to an audience of physics students but would need citation in a paper for a non-expert audience. What is not Common Knowledge? Datasets generated by you or others. References to studies done by others. Examples of statements that need citation - each refers to work done by others, statistics, or specific information that would not be known by the average reader: Researchers have found that dispersants utilized to clean up oil spills can lead to lung damage when airborne particles of these dispersants combine with crude oil and are inhaled.

Lung epithelial cell death induced by oil-dispersant mixtures. Toxicology in Vitro, 26, 5, 746-751. Nadeau and Berube, A. The re-emergence of concentrated poverty: Brookings Metropolitan Opportunity Series. The energy of mixing per site for a binary polymer blend with differing degrees of polymerization can be described through the Flory-Huggins equation.

Principles of Polymer Chemistry. This equation is specific to the thermodynamics of macromolecular structures and would not be considered common knowledge by many scientists or engineers. For these reasons, they need to be cited.