CSCI 1200 Data Structures
Spring 2013
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Academic Integrity

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Important: It will be assumed that you have read the following statement thoroughly. If you have any questions, contact the instructor or the TAs immediately.

Academic Integrity

Copying, communicating, or using disallowed materials during an exam is cheating, of course. Students caught cheating on an exam will receive an F in the course and will be reported to the Dean of Students. Students are allowed to assist each other in labs and ask the TAs for help, but each student must write up their own lab solutions.

Academic integrity is a more complicated issue for individual programming assignments, but one we take very seriously. Students naturally want to work together, and it is clear they learn a great deal by doing so. Getting help is often the best way to interpret error messages and find bugs, even for experienced programmers. In response to this, the following rules will be in force for programming assignments:

  • Students are allowed to work together in designing high level algorithms, in interpreting error messages, and in discussing strategies for testing and finding bugs, but NOT in writing code or pseudocode. Detailed algorithms and implementation must be done individually.
  • Students may not jointly write code or pseudocode, may not share code or pseudocode, may not copy code or pseudocode, and may not discuss code or pseudocode in detail (line-by-line or loop-by-loop) while it is being written or afterwards. This extends up to two days after the submission deadline.
  • Similarly, students may not receive detailed help on their code from individuals outside the course. This restriction includes tutors, students from prior terms, internet resources, etc.
  • Students may not show their code to other students as a means of helping them. Sometimes good students who feel sorry for struggling students are tempted to provide them with "just a peek" at their code. Such "peeks" often turn into extensive copying, despite prior claims of good intentions.
  • Students may not leave their code (either electronic versions or printed copies) in publicly accessible areas. Students may not share computers in any way when there is an assignment pending.

We use an automatic code comparison tool to help spot assignments that have been submitted in violation of these rules. The tool takes all assignments from all sections and all prior terms and compares them, highlighting regions of the code that are similar. Code submitted by students who followed the rules produces less than 10% overlap. Code submitted by students who broke the rules produces anywhere from about 30% to 100% overlap.

The instructor checks flagged pairs of assignments very carefully, to determine which students may have violated the rules of academic integrity on programming assignments. When it is believed that an incident of academic dishonesty has occurred, the involved students are contacted and a meeting is scheduled. All students caught cheating on a programming assignment (both the copier and the provider) will be punished. The standard punishment for the first offense is a 0 on the assignment and a letter grade reduction on the final semester grade. Students whose violations are more flagrant will receive a higher penalty. For example, a student who outright steals another student's code will receive an F in the course immediately. Students caught a second time will receive an immediate F, regardless of circumstances. Each incident will be reported to the Dean of Students.

Academic Dishonesty in the Student Handbook

Refer to the The Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights and Responsibilities for further discussion of academic dishonesty. Note that: "Students found in violation of the academic dishonesty policy are prohibited from dropping the course in order to avoid the academic penalty."

Number of Students Found in Violation of the Policy

Historically, each semester, 5-10 students are found to be in violation of the academic dishonesty policy.