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Avoiding Plagiarism: Citing

This guide will define plagiarism and offer tips for avoiding plagiarism.

Decision Tree 1

What needs to be cited?

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism from the UC San Diego Library. UC San Diego Library, May 2014. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.

What Is Common Knowledge?

Common knowledge is information that is widely-recognized and is considered factual by scholars (experts in that field).

The easiest way to determine if something is common knowledge is to verify that the information has been used in at least five authoritative sources without citation. If those scholars did not cite it, then you do not have to cite it either!

Some examples of common knowledge include:

  • widely-known facts
    • Most people know that water is comprised of 2 parts hydrogen, 1 part oxygen; you would not need to cite this fact. The same goes for widely-accepted dates (the birth/death of an author, the beginning/end of a war).
  • common sayings, proverbs, and clichés
    • Most people have heard the phrase "two wrongs don't make a right"; you would not need to cite this proverb if you used it in a paper.

Remember: if you are not sure if it is common knowledge, cite it!

Citation Styles

The Modern Language Association (MLA) Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing is the official style guide of Mountain View College.

Disciplines that use MLA include: English language, literature, and literary criticism, non-English languages, literature, and literary criticism, and cultural studies.

The American Psychological Association (APA) Style is most often used in social sciences (psychology, sociology, linguistics, economics, and criminology), business, and nursing.

Chicago/Turabian Style is most often used in fine arts (art, art history, music, and theater), anthropology, computer science, and history.

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Decision Tree 2

When do you cite?

Tips for Avoiding Plagiarism from the UC San Diego Library. UC San Diego Library, May 2014. Web. 13 Jan. 2016.