How to avoid cheating in CSC108H

Most students who commit an academic offence didn't start out meaning to do so. Instead, they slide into a situation where what they're doing, beginning with acceptable behaviour, becomes unacceptable; or they simply don't understand that the university views cheating as unacceptable; or pressure from their peers pushes them into doing something against their better judgement.

We'd like to help you avoid being in one of these unhappy predicaments. It's not pleasant for us to prosecute academic offences, and it can be disastrous for you.

Be aware of what an academic offence is.

We have another little web page on this, but briefly, if you submit work that is to a considerable extent really someone else's, or if you provide work to someone else that they then submit as their own, that is an academic offence.

Equivalently, it's an offence to work together with someone else -- each of you sharing the work equally -- unless your instructor has specifically said that collaboration is allowed or required.

Avoid sharing code.

In a course like CSC108H (and also in other courses where a considerable amount of the work involves writing computer programs), the most common kind of academic offence involves shared program code. For a given problem, the computer program you write as a solution will always be very different from what your friends would write, and it's very easy for a programmer with even limited experience to recognize when two "independent" programs really have a common origin.


Avoid seeing code.

When you see it, you remember it.

But what about learning by helping?

That's a real problem. One of the best ways to learn is by asking a friend. An even better way to learn is to answer a friend's questions. Are we asking you to lose these valuable resources? or not to participate in the intellectual life that we hope you came here for?

Of course not. But:

Some people advocate this further rule, though I think it's a little too strong:

Be careful if you have a private tutor.

A private tutor is someone whom you pay to help you. There are lots of very good ones around, and some who are a little shady, and others whose enthusiasm may lead them to tell you things they should leave you to figure out on your own.

If you get an assignment solution from a private tutor, it's likely the other students also being helped by the private tutor will also get a very similar assignment solution from her or him. We'll see the similarity, and you'll be accused of an academic offence.

And you'll be guilty. You didn't get your assignment from the other student, but you did get it from someone other than yourself.

To avoid this problem, here's a simple rule:

Here's another rule that you would probably have guessed.

Experience shows that assignment sellers who guarantee the solution you get is unique are lying.

(On the other hand, experience also shows that private tutors can be very helpful, as long as the help is confined to explaining computing concepts -- working through lecture material with you, for example.)

What if you use a private tutor who advertises on the CDF-PC bulletin boards?

We remove the advertisements for tutors we know are going to cause you trouble. But we can't be sure that everyone who advertises will behave responsibly.

It's up to you to ensure that the help you get from a private tutor is acceptable under the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters.

Be careful with your account.

We do see students who are in fact innocent but who have some trouble convincing us of it. This isn't fun for the students, even though they eventually don't undergo any punishment.

Here are some ways to avoid being victimized by someone who wants to use your code:

How can I say "no" to my friends?

Tell them you know that we go after people who submit similar files. Tell them you like them a lot, but you're scared.