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Answered By: Jeneen LaSee-Willemssen
Last Updated: Mar 04, 2016     Views: 24981

Be careful!


If what you are incorporating into your writing is simply common knowledge, you will not need to cite the source of this information.


However, if the information you are incorporating into your writing is more complex or "insider" knowledge then you will need to cite current, credible sources that prove your position. Being a professional implies that you are aware that there are things you do not know and that you make a practice of checking yourself and your assumptions and knowledge. Your resources are your evidence that the information you are including in your work is indeed true.


Instead of simply providing your own knowledge with no references and citations, you will want to double check the things you know by finding reputable, high-quality resources (books, articles, websites) that support your point of view and/or knowledge. Cite those resources as back up to what you know. For class assignments, you may want to look at your textbook, lectures, and course readings, or you may want to do extra research in the library's databases.


Also, know that general facts known within one field or discipline may not necessarily translate as general knowledge to another. You may think something is obvious (when it is not) because of your professional experiences. A good rule of thumb would be to acknowledge ideas that are not common knowledge among your peers (other students in the course or the instructor if they are in a different field from your own). 


Finally, there may be a temptation to cite yourself. The American Psychological Association (APA) requires that all references "provide recoverable data" (APA, 2010, p. 180). In other words, things that you know because of expertise and experience cannot be cited because your reader cannot "recover" or find it online or in a library. One exception: APA does allow for self-citation if you are citing something you authored and published (for example a book or an article). They do have cautions about this practice, however. For more information see the Publication Manual's information on self-plagiarism (APA, 2010, p. 16).



American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington DC, Author.