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Archive for October, 2009

Academic Honesty

Posted by Patrick on October 1, 2009

When I was in college, there was an ongoing debate amongst the students as to what constituted cheating on assignments.  Our professors would give us weekly assignments from the textbook meant to help us develop concepts and problem solving skills.  They encouraged us to work in groups and discuss the problems with our peers, as long as our solutions reflected our own thinking.  They also encouraged us to research, read other books, find articles online, etc.A group of students realized that it was pretty easy to search for the same course in other universities, and to find complete solutions (worked out by other professors) to the same problems we were working on.  They would then do the assignments aided by these solutions.  Their perspective was that it was simply “good research” and not cheating because they weren’t simply copying the solutions: they were working through them, trying to understand them, and only then, would they write their own “researched” work.

A different group of students disagreed with this view and claimed that this was cheating.

It’s now your turn to have that debate.  What is cheating?  Where do you draw the line?  If copying someone else’s work word for word is cheating, what about using someone else’s work to help you with yours (if you write it in your own words)?  What is legitimate research?  Should you always quote your sources (of help)?

In trying to answer these questions, I would like you to watch this talk by Clay Shirky [1].  (If your connection isn’t so good, remember that you can download Youtube Videos [2]) Most of the talk is about the broader topic of Information Overload and Filtering, but there’s a very good section where he talks about social networking tools (like facebook) and cheating.  What do you think of his views?


  1. Clay Shirky, It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure, <>
  2. HIS Wiki, <>

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