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INFO LIT: Plagiarism

By the end of this instruction you should be able to understand what plagiarism is and when to cite your sources in order to avoid it.

When NOT to cite

It is not necessary to cite our source if you are using your own original ideas or if you are using information that is considered common knowledge.

"Common knowledge" refers to facts that are widely known to society at large (general common knowledge) or to a particular discipline (discipline-specific common knowledge).

Common knowledge also includes basic facts about famous people and well-known historical events or scientific facts. 

For instance, “Boston is the capital of Massachusetts” is common knowledge.
“Boston is the most populous city in New England” is a fact that needs a citation such as:
 “QuickFacts: Boston, Massachusetts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on March 23, 2021. Retrieved September 26, 2020.

What is general common knowledge in one culture or country is not necessarily common knowledge in another, so it is important to consider your intended reader's context.

Discipline-specific common knowledge refers to basic facts that would be common knowledge only to people well-versed in the discipline and not necessarily to society at large.

For example, a reference to the zeroth law of thermodynamics would not need to be cited in a physics paper because it would be commonly known among physicists, but it would need to be cited in a paper intended for a non-specialist audience for whom it would not be commonly known.


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