Academic Conduct

Academic Conduct Policies for Students in Computer Science & Engineering Department Classes

Q1. Why does there need to be this special note on academic conduct?

A few reasons. One is some students do not realize that cheating is a serious situation with significant penalties. Students should not expect cheating to be overlooked or treated lightly --- often the penalty for cheating in a computer science class is a failing grade for the class. Second, some students do not understand what constitutes cheating. This note attempts to clarify what is and is not normative in computer science classes.

Q2. Are we ever allowed to work in groups in CSci classes?

A number of computer science classes allow (or require) you to work in groups on some or all of the assignments. When allowed, the department encourages students to work in groups --- this often produces a better learning environment and also gives students practice in working in a group, a skill employers value since much industry work is done in groups.

Q3. Should we assume that we can work in groups in CSci classes?

Unless a class explicitly states that students can work in groups, you should assume that you are to work individually, or should ask the instructor whether group work is allowed.

Q4. If I am working on an individual assignment, how much collaboration is allowed?

This will vary from class to class. Often instructors will encourage students to discuss assignments, ask each other for help, etc. but will want them to design and implement their own answers. This will usually be explained in more detail in the course syllabus or assignment instructions, for example: "Although you are free to discuss assignments with others, the work you turn in must be your own. This means that on written problems you must come up with your own solution; on programming problems, you must design, implement, debug, and test the program on your own."

Note that, in this case, although some discussion of the assignment is permissible, extensive collaboration is not. For example turning in a lengthy programming assignment that is essentially line by line the same as another student's is a clear indicator that copying or undue collaboration occurred. If the amount of collaboration allowable is not addressed, ask the instructor if you have any questions about it.

Q5. Is letting someone copy your assignment also serious cheating?

Most students recognize that copying another's work and representing it as their own is academic dishonesty. However, you should also realize that assisting or encouraging another students in cheating is also serious academic misconduct and will often carry the same penalty. When working individually, you should not give copies of your assignments to other students.

Moreover, it is your responsibility to take reasonable precautions to prevent others from copying your assignments --- for example, you should not allow other people to use your computer account, should not change the permission on your computer files so that they can be copied, etc.

Q6. What are some of the more common types of cheating I am expected to know about?

  • Plagiarism: students should not represent other people's work as their own. Examples of this include copying assignment answers from the Internet or from an answer key, or from another student. Another example is copying code. Students should realize that although verbatim copying is the most blatant form of plagiarism, text does not need to be copied verbatim for plagiarism to occur. Copying major ideas without attribution, copying and making minor changes, and copying and making cosmetic changes are all considered plagiarism.
  • Aiding and abetting cheating. Students should not encourage or assist other students in cheating. This includes giving other students copies of assignment answers (including computer code), and allowing other students to view their exam answers during a test.
  • Illegal help during exams. Examples of this include copying from another student during an exam, and using illegal resources (e.g., notes during a closed-book closed-note exam, hand-held computing devices when they are not allowed, etc.)
  • Falsifying information: examples of this include modifying a graded answer and claiming it was graded incorrectly, and adding your (or another student's) name to a group assignment when you (or they) did not contribute.
  • Violations of the acceptable use policy for computers. Students should not allow others to use their accounts, should not attempt to access private information or circumvent privacy or security measures, should not use their account for illegal purposes, etc. (See the CSE Labs acceptable use policy for more information).

Q7. Where can I find out more information about academic conduct?

The Office for Student Conduct and Academic Integrity is a good site. It contains an FAQ for students, as well as links to other information such as the Student Conduct Code.

Q8. What if I'm not sure if something is allowed or not?

If you are unsure, it is best to ask the course instructor.