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Citing Business Sources

A guide to citing a variety of business sources.


Penn's Code of Academic Integrity defines plagiarism as "using the ideas, data, or language of another without specific or proper acknowledgement." Below are definitions of some of the most common types of plagiarism.

Verbatim Plagiarism

  • Refers to language that is copied word-for-word from a source and used in a paper without acknowledgement of the original source
  • Includes embedding word-for-word source material amid your own words without crediting the source
  • Credit must be given to the author of any copied language by placing the source material in quotation marks

Mosaic Plagiarism

  • Refers to the act of copying small sections of material from a source or a variety of sources and altering the wording slightly without crediting the author of the source material
  • Can occur unintentionally, but is still impermissible
  • Being organized as you prepare and write can help avoid this type of plagiarism
    • Pay careful attention as you take notes and write your paper to what is source material and what are your original ideas and cite accordingly

Common Knowledge

Common knowledge refers to information considered to be known to an educated reader, such as widely known facts and dates, and, in specific circumstances, ideas or language. Information that is considered to be common knowledge can be used in a paper without attributing it to a source. Identified below are some ways to determine whether something can be considered common knowledge.

Widely Known Facts

  • Widely known historical and scientific facts are generally considered common knowledge
    • e.g., Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, or the molecular structure of carbon dioxide is CO2
  • Facts that are widely known to particular communities but not necessarily to you can be considered common knowledge
    • e.g., Theresa Elmendorf having been the first female president of the American Library Association may be common knowledge for librarians, but not necessarily to someone of another profession
  • A good barometer for whether or not something is common knowledge is to ask yourself who your audience is and what they already know
  • Any discussion of another individual's thought, research, or analysis requires a citation

Ideas or Interpretations

  • Generally not considered to be common knowledge, with a few exceptions
    • Ideas and interpretations are typically manifested as theories, which are not fact
  • Exceptions would be in cases where a theory or opinion has become so widely accepted that it becomes common knowledge
  • If you're unsure, the safest bet when it comes to ideas or interpretations is to cite the source


Paraphrasing refers to the act of distilling and restating a source's idea(s) into one's own words. The process of restating versus simply rewording can be tricky, so below are some things to keep in mind to ensure you paraphrase and don't plagiarize.

Inadequate Paraphrase

  • Occurs when not enough of the original wording has been changed
  • Can occur when the meaning of the source material is altered and represented inaccurately by new phrasing
  • Can be avoided by restating the source material without having it open in front of you
    • Helps you distill source's idea to its core premise and word it without being influenced  by what you are reading from the page
    • Always refer to the original when you are done writing to ensure your wording and sentence structure do not match

Uncited Paraphrase

  • Occurs when a reference to the source material is not included in a paraphrase in the form of a footnote (or, depending on the format, an in-text citation)
  • Even though you are restating a source's ideas, you are still expressing the work of someone else in your own words, which requires that you direct the reader to the original idea and enable them to discover it
  • Keep in mind as a paraphrase that anything you include in your paper that you have not thought of yourself needs to be cited


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Matthew Trowbridge
Lippincott Library
3420 Walnut St., Room 243.3
Philadelphia, PA 19104
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