Plagiarism vs Common Knowledge

Plagiarism is not something a writer ever wants to be accused of.

To be accused of stealing someone else’s hard work and using it as your own can come with serious stiff penalties and can essentially ruin ones writing career and worse, their reputation.

Most writers, whether they are a student, blogger or seasoned writer, try to do their best to avoid any type of plagiarism, but at times this can be a very difficult tasks as some writers may get confused as to what is considered plagiarism vs common knowledge.

What is Considered Plagiarism?

Understanding what plagiarizing means is your first step to being on the safe side and avoiding falling down that rabbit hole.

Plagiarism can easily be defined as using another person’s work and trying to pass it off as your own.

This can be intentional or unintentional. Not to mention, it’s very unethical and is severely frowned upon in the writing world .

To avoid this you should always cite your sources and give credit where credit is due.

You can do this by including a works cited page, or bibliography. There are many great sources you can find online that will point you in the right direction.

There is also such a thing as self-plagiarism so be sure you are citing your own previously used material.

What is Considered Common Knowledge?

Any information that is widely universally known or can be verified with ease is considered common knowledge and does not need to be cited.

Examples of common knowledge sources would be information found in almanacs, dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Perfect examples would be historical facts that are well known, national traits, truisms, universally accepted facts and periods in time that are well known.

How to Tell the Difference 

Still confused what is considered a common knowledge source? Ask yourself these three questions before deciding if you should cite a source.

  1. Is the information commonly agreed upon? For example, when writing the name of a state, it should always be capitalized.
  2. Is it generally accepted? For example, October always comes after September.
  3. Is it common knowledge? For example, Day will bring light, night will bring darkness.

Keeping these questions in mind when deciding if you should cite or not is a great starting point in helping you avoid any problems when it comes to plagiarizing yourself.

That being said, the best rule of thumb, if you are still unsure, always cover yourself and cite your source.

There’s no harm in citing a source but plenty of consequences for not doing so. Its best to be overcautious than to risk it. Writing can be a great source for communicating whether it be to share personal experiences, to touch others or create actions or simply to share pertinent information or opinions.

Whatever the reason for writing, you always want to be sure you are writing with integrity, with the main focus being to always be original and use your own words and citing when appropriate.

Doing this can provide a fresh new perspective on whatever the topic may be, one that many people just may be interested in reading.

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