Informatics 41 * Fall 2005 * David G. Kay * UC Irvine
COLLABORATION AND INDEPENDENT WORK
Part of being a professional is following the profession's norms of accepted behavior. As you know, you may not copy commercial programs from the lab machines to use at home. Likewise, in an academic setting you may not turn in someone else's work as your own. ("As your own" is the key phrase: If you use code from the textbook or from your TA, you should include a comment indicating where the code came from. This is perfectly permissible unless an assignment explicitly restricts what code you may use. Joint work may be allowed or required by an assignment, as we are doing with pair programming. However, using code from other students or from sources outside of the course is not permissible in Informatics 41 except when an assignment explicitly allows or requires it.)
As a general principle, we expect you to do your own independent work in all parts of this course. In this course it is always permissible, even desirable, to talk with your classmates about the conceptual course material or the requirements of an assignment (though the instructor or TA will be most reliable for this). It is always permissible to get help from anyone about using the programming environment or other system details, help with minor syntax errors, or suggestions of possible test cases for your programs (though when an assignment requires it, you must write your own description of your test plan). It is never permissible (except if an assignment explicitly allows or requires working in groups) to copy another student's solution (whether code, prose, or math). A good rule of thumb is this: Any time you find yourself writing down (on paper or by electronic means) part of someone else's solution, you are copying impermissibly.
Turning in another person's work as your own violates the honesty policies of ICS and UCI (http://www.ics.uci.edu/ugrad/current/policies/index.php). The School of ICS takes academic honesty very seriously and imposes serious penalties on students who violate its guidelines. Detected violations could result in your failing the course, having a letter filed with the school, and losing a variety of other benefits and privileges. We do check for academic dishonesty both manually and automatically. It is an unfortunate fact that nearly every quarter, some students in ICS classes are found to have violated these policies; to protect the privacy of the guilty, violations are not made public, but sadly, they do occur. No matter how much pressure you feel from deadlines or other sources, no matter how inconceivable it is to you that you might not complete an assignment on time, never take the shortcut of turning in someone else's code. Compared to the consequences of academic dishonesty, one low assignment score is a minor disadvantage. If you feel as if you're falling behind or have other difficulties, see your TA or the instructor; we will help you work around your trouble.
We do encourage all students to help their classmates with the course material and the labs, within these limits. Helping someone else doesn't hurt your grade; we don't have any quota on how many As or Bs we can give. It is even permissible in Informatics 41 to let someone else look over your code to get an idea of how you organized it. However, you should not let anyone copy your code, either on paper or electronically. In fact, it is wise to keep your code in your own possession; if you give a copy to someone else, even if it's just "for reference," that person might be tempted to copy portions of your code; then you could be accused of academic dishonesty.
Most importantly, realize that getting "the answer" is only the last part of each assignment. Equally important is the process of getting the solution--including the false starts, bugs, misconceptions, and mistakes--because the learning occurs in the doing. Completely apart from the ethical issues, copying a solution deprives you of the whole point of the assignment.