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New Mexico State University

Exceptions for "Common Knowledge"

"Common knowledge" does not need to be footnoted. It consists of facts that are easily findable. No one person can take credit for them. This doesn't mean that everyone knows it, and it may be news to you.

    Some examples:

    • Kigali is the capital of Rwanda
    • Las Cruces is located in the Chihuahuan desert, the largest desert of North America
    • Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,100 years

    By contrast,

    • If the idea or research is unique, you need to give credit.
    • If the fact is hard to find, you want to indicate where it can be located.

    When in doubt, cite your source!

    • A conservative rule is to cite anything you did not know before you began your research.
    • A more liberal standard is that anything that would be in a general encyclopedia is common knowledge.
    • Different disciplines and professions have different standards for deciding what is common knowledge. Consult with your professors.


Sources Consulted in the Construction of this Page

UCLA "Success With Less"

Purdue University, OWL



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