Academic Integrity

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Academic Integrity

This document presents the position of the Department of Computer Science, Siena College, Loudonville, NY, on the subject of Academic Integrity. This document is consistent with the College's overall Code of Academic Integrity. We are indebted to the Oregon State University Computer Science Department and the Stanford University Computer Science Department for publishing excellent Academic Integrity guidelines from which we borrowed extensively.

Academic Dishonesty

By academic dishonesty we mean presenting, as your own work, material produced by or in collaboration with others, or permitting or assisting others to present your work as their own without proper acknowledgement.

Courses involving computer programming require special consideration because use of the computer permits easy copying and trivial modification of programs. The following guidelines are provided to help in determining if an incident of academic dishonesty has occurred.

  1. The instructor may suspect a student of program plagiarism if the student submits a program that is so similar to the program submitted by a present or past student in the course that the solutions may be converted to one another by a simple mechanical transformation. When looking at possible mechanical transformations, commenting is excluded.
  2. The instructor may suspect a student of cheating, whether on a program or an examination, if the student cannot explain both the details of his or her solution and the techniques or principles used to generate that solution.

It should be clear that there is latitude for difference among individual instructors, particularly in the matter when working with other students or adapting material from a textbook is permissible.

Examples of Academic Honesty and Dishonesty

Here are some examples of academic honesty and dishonesty in computer science. These are just examples; obviously it would be impossible to produce a complete list that would cover every possible set of circumstances.

You are acting honestly if you

  • Have permission to collaborate with other students on a project, and you list all collaborators
  • Receive advice from instructors, tutors or staff members in the department
  • Share knowledge with other students about syntax errors, 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 implementation strategies
  • Engage, with other students, in discussion of course concepts or programming strategies in preparation for an assignment or examination
  • Copy code and cite its source on assignments for which the instructor allows inclusion of code other than your own

You are acting dishonestly if, unless specifically authorized by the instructor, you

  • Turn in the work of any other person (former students, friends, textbook authors, people on the Internet, etc.) and represent it as your own work
  • Knowingly permit another person to turn in your work as his or her own work
  • Copy material (code, documentation, etc.) from the work of another student
  • Deliberately transform borrowed sections of code or other material in order to disguise their origins
  • 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 another person(s) on a project and fail to inform the instructor of this
  • Steal or obtain examinations, answer keys, or program samples from the instructors' files or computer directories
  • Use unauthorized materials during an open-book or closed-book examination, or communicate during an examination in an unauthorized way with another person
  • Modify or delete another student's or an instructor's computer files

Collaboration on Homework Assignments

The following general policy on cooperation on homework assignments holds:

In all circumstances it is acceptable to discuss the meaning of assignments and general approaches and strategies for handling those assignments. Any cooperation beyond that point, including shared pseudocode or flowcharts, shared code, or shared documentation, is only acceptable if specifically so permitted by the class instructor.

The policy described for programming projects gives you a good idea of our general philosophy about collaboration. For problem sets (homework problems), we have similar expectations about academic integrity but there are some differences in the ground rules:

  • The problem sets must be completed individually (you cannot hand in a joint solution with a partner)
  • We strongly encourage you to discuss and work the problems with other students. A group of two or three probably is best, any larger and it can be hard for all people to participate effectively. It is allowed to sit down and work though the problems on scratch paper or a blackboard. Set the goal of the joint work to be that everyone participating fully understands the concepts and techniques being used to solve the problem. Teach and learn from each other!
  • When the time comes to write up the solutions, the group should separate and without referring to the jointly prepared notes each student must write up their own solution to hand in. The requirement about not referring to/copying the joint work is to ensure that each of you completely understands the material and is able to independently generate a solution from your own understanding. You'll need this skill for exams, too!
  • Your submitted solution should credit any student with whom you worked/discussed problems.
  • A good rule of thumb is that you must be able to explain and duplicate all the steps in any work you submit.

Penalty for Academic Dishonesty

Each instructor sets the sanctions for academic dishonesty in their class. They range from a lowered grade for the project or exam to an F for the course. The College has procedures, as outlined in Siena Life, for dealing with Academic dishonesty. Students who commit such acts expose themselves to punishments as severe as dismissal from the College.

Last Words

Finally, use your common sense. If you suspect that what you are about to do is a violation, play it safe and ask a faculty member first rather than take risks with your academic career.

Academic integrity is taken very seriously in this department and we have no tolerance for behavior that falls outside our boundaries for acceptable conduct. Please do your part in maintaining a community where academic work is done with a high standard of integrity!