What is common knowledge?
Common knowledge may include:
- Common sense observations.
- Generally accepted facts.
- Shared folklore.
- Facts to be found in most general reference sources.
- Common sense observations: e.g., most babies cry frequently.
- Generally accepted facts: e.g., many Americans eat turkey at Thanksgiving. However, the question arises of "generally accepted by whom?"
- That George Bush is the current U.S. President is common knowledge among Americans. That Mwai Kibaki is the current president of Kenya is a similar type of fact, but it is a fact unknown by most Americans. Some professors would consider both of these facts to be common knowledge, while other professors would consider only Bush's presidency to be common knowledge.
- The medical criteria for Asperger's Disorder is not common knowledge among most Americans, but it may be common knowledge to the people working in the field of counseling. If a student were writing a general composition that included the medical criteria for Asperger's, it would not be considered common knowledge. But if a student were writing a research paper for a psychology class, the professor may or may not consider it to be common knowledge.
- Shared folklore (e.g., Little Red Riding Hood carried a basket of goodies to her sick grandmother).
- Facts to be found in most general reference sources. This would include general encyclopedias, dictionaries, and almanacs. Although this information is easily locatable by anyone, it may not be well-known information (e.g., a knout is a whip for flogging criminals). Professors vary on whether they consider such information to be common knowledge.
Each professor has a slightly different interpretation of what constitutes "common knowledge." Students should make sure they understand their professors' standards before writing papers.