When teaching proper citation practices in the college composition classroom the idea of common knowledge generates more questions and confusion than any other single aspect. The notion of what constitutes common knowledge is ambiguous, and in many ways subjective. Common knowledge in a field such as mechanical engineering may not be common knowledge at all to a biology professor, or the english professor the essay is being written for.
For my project I want to create a lesson which can be taught in the college composition classroom to show students the subjective nature of what constitutes common knowledge. The goal for this lesson is to help students think critically about their citation practices and how they will navigate the minefield of citations throughout their academic careers.
The lesson will: 1) contain the definition of common knowledge and how that relates to MLA citation rules, 2) cover examples of the subjective nature of what constitutes common knowledge compared to information that needs to be cited, 3) briefly cover the consequences of both citing information that does not need to be cited, and the consequences of failing to cite information that does need to be cited, and 4) offer advice on how to navigate this dilemma as the student progresses throughout their academic careers.
Citation practices are a concern of graduate students in the classroom as a student, as a TA, and as an instructor of record. Knowing how to properly cite as a student is a crucial part of the writing process when writing about research; whether it is for a single class, or in a thesis or dissertation. TAs, from what I understand, often have to grade papers and projects and therefore could benefit from a lesson on common knowledge and how it relates to proper citation practices. In the same way those graduate students who are instructors of record will also benefit from such a lesson in that they may be responsible for teaching proper citation, and for grading the papers that result from those lessons.