Academic Honesty in Computer Science


Our department looks for the finest when it comes to character and integrity. Academic honesty plays a huge role.

What is Academic Honesty?

Academic honesty is a term referring to appropriate behavior relating to many of the activities that a student engages in while attending university, such as participation in class, examinations, assignments and other aspects of academic work. The University of Saskatchewan has an official website describing and defining Academic Honesty and Dishonesty. 

Academic Honesty in Computer Science

In the next sections, appropriate and inappropriate behavior is discussed for some of the academic situations in which you may find yourself in your Computer Science courses. The lists of examples are not intended to be exhaustive, but are rather intended to give specific examples of behavior that is clearly appropriate or inappropriate.

Assignments

Assignments are intended to be your own work unless explicitly indicated as otherwise by your course instructor. When completing these individual assignments, it is acceptable, and you are encouraged to:

  • Discuss, at a high level, the problem(s) and possible solution(s) with your fellow students. The term ``at a high level'' refers to general approaches to solutions, not the actual wording of a specific solution.
  • Seek assistance in solving small syntax errors or problems in compiling a program from your fellow students, your teaching assistants, or the course instructor.
  • Ask questions in any discussion forums for your course.
  • Research and obtain solution ideas from the Internet or other external sources.
  • Include external code or background material in your solution provided that it has been supplied by the instructor explicitly for use in your solution.

However, it is not academically honest to:

  • copy verbatim (word-for-word), in whole or in part, any portion of a solution from another student, with or without that student's knowledge. This is considered plagiarism (unless the instructor explicitly permits group work).
  • copy verbatim (word-for-word), in whole or in part, any portion of a solution from the Internet or any other external source without citation. This is considered plagiarism, even for assignments where group work is permitted. Even with proper citation, it is generally not acceptable for more than a small percentage (approx. no more than 10%) of an assignment to be copied verbatim from other sources. The exact threshold is determined by the instructor.
  • knowingly provide a written solution to an assignment to another student in either paper or electronic form. Note that if you give your NSID and password to another student, and they copy your assignment, even without your permission, this is considered to be the same as knowingly giving your assignment to that student.
  • alter an assignment after it has been graded.
  • falsify program output.
  • make use of code libraries that solve major aspects of the assignment problem(s).

Even students who are academically honest can sometimes find themselves in situations where they are accused of academic dishonesty. For example, if you are not careful with your assignment materials and they are stolen without your knowledge. To protect oneself from inadvertent accusation one should safeguard written solutions from being obtained by other students without your knowledge. Ways you can protect yourself include:

  • Never leave your lab computer unattended without first logging out.
  • Never give anyone your NSID or password (this actually violates the Lab Use Policy) or leave a copy of your NSID and password where it could be taken (in fact, you should never even write down your password!).
  • Don't loan written copies of your solutions even if the understanding is that they will simply be read. It only takes a few minutes to photocopy.
  • When discussing approaches to solutions with fellow students, avoid writing too much down. This helps prevent your final solutions from having identical or very similar wording.

In summary, assignments cannot be copied verbatim from any source. Ideas may be discussed and researched, but ideas must be expressed in your own words, and program code should be your own, unless the instructor explicitly permits group work.

Examinations

Examinations are always an individual evaluation. Once an examination begins, a student is not permitted to communicate in any way with anyone other than the examination invigilator until the examination paper is handed in, and the student has left the examination room.

During an examination, any of the following actions constitute academic dishonesty:

  • Communicating or attempting to communicate with anyone other than the examination invigilators.
  • Use of a prohibited electronic device (cellular phone, calculator, etc.)
  • Use or possession of unauthorized written materials (cheat sheets, etc.)
  • Viewing or attempting to view the examination paper of another student (this is a form of communication).
  • Opening the examination paper before instructed to do so by the invigilator.
  • Continuing to write on the examination paper after the examination time limit has expired.
  • Removing or attempting to remove an examination paper from the examination room.
  • Leaving the examination room without permission from the invigilator.

Sometimes, events can occur that may lead an invigilator to suspect academic dishonesty even when none is actually occurring. To avoid these unpleasant situations, we suggest that you

  • Bring to the exam only those materials that are absolutely necessary to write the exam - pen/pencil, eraser, etc. Leave extra books, bags etc. that might be suspected of containing or concealing unauthorized written materials at home.
  • Keep your eyes from wandering to the side. Examinations can be hard on the eyes, so if you need to look up to take an eye break, look straight ahead or close your eyes.

Group Work

Sometimes an instructor will explicitly allow, or even require, that assignments be completed by small groups. The exact makeup of each group is determined by the instructor. Some instructors may assign specific students to specific groups while others may allow students to choose their own groups up to a maximum number of people.

In either case, the group is normally permitted to work together on all of the details of the assignment solution and may hand in identical assignments. However, all of the rules for individual assignments apply when discussing the problem with members of other groups. In other words, discussions with members of other groups, while encouraged, should once again be at a “high level” (see above) and groups should not share copies of solutions with other groups.

It is up to the instructor whether they will require a single submission for the whole group or one per member. In situations where students have chosen their own groups, it is usual practice for each group to be required to identify the members of the group. This identification is just like a normal citation in that you are acknowledging that the submitted work is a contribution by all of the group members. Failure to identify all group members who contributed is the same as not citing an external source and constitutes academic dishonesty.

In summary, group work is allowed only with the explicit permission of the instructor and the rules for forming groups, submitting final work, and identification of group members are up to the individual instructors. When group work is permitted, be sure you understand what level of collaboration is permitted – consult your course syllabus, assignment description or speak with your instructor.

Lab Use Policy

The Computer Science Department Lab Use Policy applies whenever you are using computer equipment on campus that is supplied by the Department of Computer Science. Violation of this policy can result in academic penalties. Consult /resources/labpolicy.jsp for the Lab Use Policy.

Potential Academic Penalties

Allegations of academic misconduct and determination of penalties are conducted according to the University of Saskatchewan's Regulations on Academic Misconduct.

According to these regulations, minor cases of alleged academic misconduct may be handled informally through an agreement between the student and their instructor on a suitable penalty, subject to the limitations in the aforementioned regulations.

For more serious cases, the procedures for Formal Allegations of Academic Misconduct, described in the Regulations on Academic Misconduct are followed.

In the college of Arts and Science, hearings are heard and academic penalties are assigned by the Arts and Science Student Academic Affairs Committee (SAAC). Should the SAAC find that the student is guilty of academic misconduct on an assignment, they may be (and historically are) subject to an academic penalty as high as a grade of zero on the assignment plus an additional penalty of 10-15% off their final grade in the class for a first offense. If a student is found guilty of academic misconduct on an examination, and it is their first offense, the penalty can be higher still.

SAAC penalties for second and subsequent offenses are, historically, considerably higher and have ranged from automatic failure of a course, suspension, or expulsion from the University.