University of Stirling
Division of Computing Science and Mathematics
A Note on Independent Work
(See also the Handbooks for Students taking Computing Science modules)

Advice to Students

From time to time questions of lack of originality occur in student work in Computer Science classes. These incidents usually involve programming assignments and range from excessive collaboration to outright copying of another person's work. This note sets out some guidance on such incidents.

Students are encouraged to engage in open discussion of the nature of any assignment, including a programming assignment, and of the general approach to a solution. Much learning takes place in this way. Sharing of experience about errors made, error messages received and general approaches to a solution that did not work is also encouraged. However, there comes a point when such activities can turn into collaboration or even copying. A definite line must be drawn when you begin to work out a detailed solution to the problem. Such material as pseudocode, structure diagrams and the program code itself should be your own work, not to be shared with anyone else.

Unfortunately, deliberate copying by students does happen occasionally. For example, a student might pick up your discarded workings and use it to write a program; be careful about how you dispose of your drafts! A student might copy your files if you do not log off. Make sure that you clear up and log off properly.

If we suspect that work submitted for assessment has been copied, we will interview the students concerned. The penalties for copying will depend on the circumstances, and can include giving no marks for the piece of work involved.

It is impossible to describe every possible contingency which might occur in the context of possible cheating. Some of the more obvious ones are listed in the next section in order to convey the general sense of the matter.

Definitely not allowed

In this list we use the word "text" to describe such things as program documentation or other descriptive or analytical material relating to an assignment.

Some exceptions

Of course, there are some situations where these rules cannot be taken too literally.

For example, there are some units where students are explicitly asked to work together in teams.

Again, there may be cases where you wish to use program source (or other material) which you find in a book or which has been given out by a teacher as part of the work of the class. In such cases you should feel free to incorporate the material in your assignment, provided that you follow two essential rules: firstly, you should always make it quite clear that the material is not original and you should indicate the source and acknowledge your indebtedness; secondly, the borrowed material should not so dominate the assignment that a reader cannot identify major elements which are your own unaided work.

Email: Dr Simon B Jones