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Common Misconceptions

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If asked what constitutes a violation of the Honor Code, most students might say "copying," "cheating" or "plagiarism." As examples, they may think of someone purchasing a paper and submitting it for class, or looking over someone’s shoulder during an exam.

However, some Honor Code concerns are more subtle. They may seem perfectly OK to the person committing violation. They may even be OK in non-academic settings. Unfortunately, merely having benign intentions is not enough.

Here are some examples.

Copying and Plagiarism

Example 1—Computer Science

Most people know that you are not allowed to look over someone’s shoulder during an exam and use their answers as your own. Suppose, though, that you are writing code for a computer science project, and use code from a website for a minor function that is not crucial to the main goal of the assignment. This is still a violation of the Honor Code, because you are submitting the work as your own, rather than writing the code yourself. While it’s true that in the real world, reusing code, particularly if it is efficient, is desirable, while you are in class, you are being graded on what you can write yourself.

Example 2—The Humanities

You read a book and write your paper about the same concept that the book discussed. Do you need to cite the book?

Yes, you do. Not citing concepts, premises and ideas is plagiarism just as much as failing to cite specific text. It is also a violation of the Honor Code.

Unpermitted Collaboration

Example 1—Take-home Exam

Generally, the rules of take-home exams state that you can’t share your answers with others in the class. However, you are also not allowed to create outlines together or "prepare" your answers in some other way once the exam has been distributed.

Example 2—Lab Class

In laboratory experiment courses a student "submitting work (including work on protocols, problem sets, and lab reports) that is identical or very similar to his/her partner's work, either in organization or structure, is a violation of the Honor Code. Specifically, this means that sharing of any written material is a violation." (Introductory Experimental Biology: Stanford University)

You may have a lab partner in such classes, and work on the experiments together. Isn’t it natural in those cases to share information for the lab reports? Not if you are responsible for submitting lab reports individually.

Example 3—Computer Science

You have a bug in the program you are writing, and can’t find it. Your roommate offers to help you with debugging. She may suggest strategies for debugging the code, but she may not look at your code for you and tell you where the bug is—not even if you sit together and look for the bug. Again, you and you alone are responsible for the work you submit in class. While you may collaborate with others when you write code at an internship or elsewhere, doing so for coursework is a violation of the Honor Code.

Dual Submission of Work

Example—The Humanities

You wrote a paper last year for a History class that would be perfect, with some minor changes, for the Feminist Studies class you are taking this quarter. You did all the work yourself, properly cited everything…it should be OK, right?

No, submitting work more than once is a violation of the Honor Code—unless you have sought and been granted your professor’s approval.