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Answers to Section 2: Common Knowledge

  1. No; the basic facts about the checks-and-balances system are common knowledge and do not need to be cited.
  2. No; even if you cannot remember the exact date of the assassination attempt on Reagan, it is common knowledge because the date is undisputed and can be found in a variety of sources.
  3. No; writing on the Web is protected by copyright and must be cited, even if no author is listed.
  4. Yes; it's common knowledge if it appears undocumented in 5 or more sources.
  5. Yes; such a small program would not be widely known, so you should cite your sister as a source if you mention it. If you describe the program in more detail, it would make sense to research documents or newspaper descriptions and cite these rather than Big Sis.
  6. No; the date and location of Shakespeare's birth is not in dispute and can be found in many sources, so it is common knowledge even if you did not know it.
  7. Hmmm. This is a tricky situation. Since some, but not all, literary historians believe Shakespeare himself played the ghost, this is probably common knowledge among Shakespeare experts. You, however, are not a Shakespeare expert, so it would be wise to cite the footnote just to be safe. So, the answer is, Yes—cite it!
  8. No; undisputed dates are common knowledge.
  9. Yes; conspiracy theories are controversial, and the details of such controversies need to be cited.

>>Section 3: Myth or Fact Quiz