Academic Honesty: a practical guide

Unfortunately, I often have to deal with students who are suspected of academic dishonesty. This is always thoroughly unpleasant for both the students an myself, but it's a necessary evil of my job as an instructor.

All too often, the students seem entirely confused about why they are meeting with me about the assignment. That they have done something wrong seems to come as a surprise. This is unfortunate and it always occurs to me that if the student didn't know that what they did was wrong, it's almost certainly not the first time they did it, just the first time they got caught.

So, I guess a little education is in order. The work that students submit in courses generally falls into two categories: unsupervised (assignments and exercises) and supervised (exams and tests); I've separated them below.

The discussion below should generally apply to Computing Science courses at SFU, but individual instructors may disagree with some of the details. I should point out that the actual "rules" are in Policy T10.02, Code of Academic Honesty.


Actually, the rule is quite simple: you must do your own work on assignments. Some things that aren't okay:

Of course, you aren't expected to work in a darkened room, alone, with no outside contact. It is okay to discuss the homework problems with others, as long as you don't cross the line into using their (perhaps partially completed) work or allowing them to use yours. How do you know exactly how close is too close? The easiest guideline is this:

Don't share any written or electronic materials.

A few points about that:

You should also remember that at SFU, giving your work to someone else is academic dishonesty just as much as using someone else's work. It's your responsibility to safeguard your work against prying eyes.

Probably the best advice is to start your assignment early. A lot of explainations of academic dishonesty start with "It was 11:45, I couldn't get it to work, and I panicked."


In tests and exams, you should not have any contact with any pre-prepared materials (unless you're specifically allowed to do so in that exam) or other people (except the people proctoring the exam). If this is a surprise to you, you should probably withdraw from the University.

Copyright © , last modified 2010-07-14.