Part of the academic endeavor is a notion that academics (students, faculty, researchers, staff) must follow high standards of honesty in their academic work. One component of academic honesty is that academics must clearly indicate which work (ideas, writing, etc.) is theirs and which belongs to others.
Grinnell's student handbook includes the following statement:
The college expects Grinnell students to demonstrate a high code of personal honor in all their relationships. Further, the college seeks to protect the integrity of the operations in which grades are involved: the granting of degrees, the conferring of honors and privileges, and the certification and transfer of credits to other institutions. Accordingly, students who are dishonest in the preparation of assignments or in examinations may incur the penalty of propation, immediate failure in the course, suspension, or dismissal from the college.
Dishonesty in academic work often involves plagiarism. A student is expect to acknowledge explicitly any epxressions, ideas, or observations that are not his or her own. In submitting a report, paper, examination, homework assignment, or computer program, he or she is stating that the form and content of the paper, report, examination, homework assignment, or computer program represents his or her own work, except where clear and specific reference is made to otehr sources. Even when there may be no concious effort to deceive, failure to make appropriate acknowledgement may consititute plagiarism. Therefore, students should comply with [appropriate requirements for acknowledging sources]. (Grinnell College 2000-2001 Student Handbook, p. 51)
However, there is much more to academic honesty than just making sure to cite work you've used. In particular, you are expected to provide a true and accurate representation of your work in experimental endeavors (e.g., it is academically dishonest to invent or modify experimental results). It is also academically dishonest to aid another in an academically dishonest act (e.g., to provide aid on a no-aid exam, to write a paper for another student).
There are also more reasons to care about academic honesty than simply
integrity of operations. First, academic advancement
requires that a trail of ideas be available so that successes and
failures can be traced backwards. Second, your own personal integrity
requires that you be academically honest.
In Fall 2000, I had my first serious encounters with academic dishonesty at Grinnell, so I'm now trying to be extra-careful in spelling out what I expect from my students. What follows are some general expectations.
I expect you to follow the highest principles of academic honesty. Among other things, this means that any work you turn in should be your own or should have the work of others clearly documented. However, when you explicitly work as part of a group or team, you need not identify the work of each individual (unless I specify otherwise).
You should never
give away answers to homework assignments or
examinations. You may, however, work together in developing answers to
most homework assignments. Except as specified on individual assignments,
each student should develop his or her own final version of the
assignment. On written assignments, each student should write up an
individual version of the assignment and cite the discussion. On
non-group programming assignments, each student should do his or her own
programming, although students may help each other with design and
When working on examinations, you should not use other students as resources.
If you have a question as to whether a particular action may violate academic standards, please discuss it with me (preferably before you undertake that action).
Most of my teaching involves collaborative work. I believe
(and have found) that students learn better when they can consult
with each other. There are few better ways to learn something than to
explain that thing to someone else. In computer science, collaboration
is particularly important because you often encounter small problems that
a second set of eyes can easily identify and fix and because
world computer science is almost always a collaborative activity.
For example, pair programming is a key aspect of a new software
design methodology known as Extreme programming.
In each assignment I give, I do my best to make it clear whether the assignment is intended to be primarily collaborative or primarily individual.
In my classes, I assign a variety of types of work. Different categories have different expectations.
Laboratories are almost always collaborative. You should generally plan to work on laboratories with at least one other student. When you're stuck on a problem, you should feel free to ask for help from almost anyone (me, a TA, another student, a MathLAN UC, a friend, etc.). If I ask you to write up a laboratory, you and your partner should do one writeup. You should not copy text from another group's writeup.
Homework assignments may be individualized or collaborative. For either kind, you should feel free to ask for help from almost anyone (me, a TA, another student, a MathLAN UC, a friend). If I give an individualized homework, I expect each individual to write up his or her answers individually (no copying!). However, you may certainly ask a colleague to proofread or comment on your answers. If I give collaborative homework, each group should write its own set of answers. However, you can still ask colleagues to proofread or comment on your answers.
Take-home examinations are always individualized. You may refer to any written materials (e.g., textbooks, Web pages, your personal notes) that you wish. However, you may not talk to anyone (except me) about the examination or related issues. I'm very strict about this issue; I want you to avoid all discussion about the exam, not just questions about the material on the exam. You certainly can't ask someone how to do a problem. But you can't ask about other things, either. For example, you may not even ask a UC how to use the programming language for the exam. Similarly, you may not ask a colleague how much they've done on the exam or whether they've finished a problem (and you can't brag about finishing a problem either). At times, I may give you permission to talk to the course TA about an exam.
In-class examinations are also always individualized. You may not talk during class or discuss the exam with anyone in class. You may ask me questions. My in-class examinations are typically closed-book and closed computer. However, I typically allow students to bring one sheet (8.5 x 11 inches) of hand-written notes to the exam.
Note that computer programming shares with normal writing a need to cite work taken from elsewhere. It is certainly acceptable practice to borrow other code for your assignments. However, you must cite any code that you use from elsewhere. Each piece of code you take from elsewhere must include a comment that specifies:
This applies not only to the code you get from the Web and elsewhere; it also applies to code you get from me and from the textbook.
You need not cite the classes and libraries you use, as the command to include classes and libraries within a program provides sufficient citation.
The advances of the Internet and the World Wide Web have led to
challenges in citation. Some seem to believe that it is acceptable for
a citation to consist of a URL. However, a citation should provide
much more information. Consider what a typical citation to the
printed literature contains: Author, Date, Publisher, Title of
Article, Publisher, etc. Your Web citations should contain at least as much
detail. That is, you must include not just the URL, but also the
author of the page (using
Anonymous or an institutional author,
if necessary), the title of the page, the publisher (the site), and
The date is particularly important. Unlike printed sources, which have new editions when they change, electronic resources often change unexpectedly. By including the date the page was accessed and modified, you at least provide some indication of when the ideas you were using were available at the specified location.
Here is a sample citation for this page, using one standard form of citations.
Rebelsky, Samuel (2001). Academic Honesty. Grinnell College Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. Available at http://www.cs.grinnell.edu/~rebelsky/Courses/CS151/2002F/Handouts/academic-honesty.html (Last modified 19 January 2001; Visited 20 January 2001).
The unrecalled days before I came to Grinnell.
Some other unrecalled days, presumably after I came to Grinnell.
Saturday, 21 August 1999
Monday, 17 January 2000
Thursday, 24 August 2000
Friday, 12 January 2001
Friday, 19 January 2001
I usually create these pages
on the fly, which means that I rarely
proofread them and they may contain bad grammar and incorrect details.
It also means that I tend to update them regularly (see the history for
more details). Feel free to contact me with any suggestions for changes.
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