Policies for Current Students

The following explains the computer science academic dishonesty policy for current students:

This document incorporates by reference the University's "Code of Academic Conduct (Academic Honesty Policy)" as given in the Student Handbook and the University's " Information Technology Policy".

Academic Honesty in Computer Science

Computer Science students are expected to adhere to the University's Academic Honesty Policy and Acceptable Use Policy for Information Technologies. Beyond this, individual Computer Science instructors may establish specific rules governing academic honesty for their own courses and assignments. These rules can be more restrictive than policies set at the university level or at the departmental level. In the total absence of any specific rule or guidance from the instructor, the following departmental rule will apply by default:

It is acceptable for students to discuss the meaning of assignments, and the general approaches and strategies for handling those assignments. Any cooperation beyond that point is forbidden. It is the student's responsibility to ascertain from the instructor whether an activity will be considered honest or dishonest.

Instructors may define situations where this default rule does not apply, where students are encouraged or required to work and to learn in partnership with others, and even to incorporate the work of others, with proper acknowledgement.

A Computer Science instructor may suspect a student of academic dishonesty when ...

  • a student is unable to describe in detail the specific steps and techniques used to generate a solution to an assigned problem,
  • a student, who is required to collaborate with others, fails to shoulder an equitable portion of the burden of completing the collaborative assignment ... but ... still accepts credit for the work
  • a student submits as their own, work that is sufficiently similar to work submitted by a present or past student, or sufficiently similar to material available in a book or on the Internet.

    For programming assignments, if we say program (or subprogram) A is "sufficiently similar" to program (or subprogram) B, we mean that A can be converted into B by applying a series of simple mechanical transformations that do not change the behavior of the underlying algorithm. This definition should be understood as explicitly allowing the use of software similarity metrics to substantiate accusations of plagiarism.

Computer Science instructors want to distinguish between cases of outright dishonesty and cases of inadvertent failure. If your work has raised suspicion, please talk with your instructor and bring with you "snapshots" of your in-process work (earlier drafts of papers, earlier versions of programs).

Examples of Academic Honesty and Dishonesty in Computer Science

Disclaimer: These examples are necessarily sketchy and do not cover all the circumstances that may arise.

You are probably acting honestly if you ...

  • submit work done alone or with the advice and assistance of the instructor or the instructor's assistants
  • receive help on the use of a feature of the operating system, editor, compiler, or debugger
  • have permission to collaborate with other students on a project, carry your fair share of the workload and, when done, credit all collaborators for their contributions to the final work product
  • share knowledge with other students about syntax errors, editor short-cuts, coding tricks, or other language-specific information that makes programming easier
  • engage, with other students, in a general discussion of the nature of an assignment, the requirements for an assignment, or general strategies that could be used in completing the assignment

    Such "high-level" discussions become suspect as soon as any notes are taken that can be directly incorporated into an assignment.

  • submit an assignment to the professor for grading and, afterward, compare your solution to the solution of others who have also submitted their assignment for grading
  • copy and use code written by someone else while giving full credit to the original source and obeying the terms of the originator's copyright, copyleft or license (if any)

Unless specifically allowed or required by the instructor, you are probably acting dishonestly if you ...

  • submit an assignment that contains work originally done by persons other than yourself, without giving specific credit to these other sources
  • use fragments of source code from outside sources (including books, lecture notes, or Internet resources) without giving specific credit to the outside source
  • knowingly permit another person to submit portions of your work as his or her own work, without giving you credit
  • transform borrowed code or other material in order to disguise its true origin
  • fabricate compilation or execution results, representing a program that did not compile properly as one that did, or one that did not execute properly as one that did
  • collaborate with other persons on an assignment or project
  • steal or otherwise obtain solution manuals, examinations, answer keys, or program samples from the instructors' files or computer directories
  • refer to materials not available to all other students during an examination or during a laboratory exercise
  • communicate with another person during an examination or laboratory exercise
  • make the solutions for last semester's assignments available to next semester's students

Please be clear about this: Modifying or adapting material taken from an original source does not excuse you from the duty of crediting the source, nor is it likely to excuse you from the terms of any copyright, copyleft or license asserted by the originator.

Students will not be accused of plagiarism if they have made a good-faith effort to give full and complete credit where credit was due. However, even with proper credit, if a student was required to complete an assignment without external help or resources, then the instructor may nevertheless treat the work as tainted and assign a lower grade.

Rights and Procedures

You have rights, including the right to appeal any adverse decision made under this policy. This department follows the procedures given in the Condensed Procedures for Cases of Academic Dishonesty.