Honor Policy for Computer Science Courses

The faculty of the Computer Science Department have adopted this policy as the default policy for all courses, except when changed by individual instructors as described below. It is intended as a guide for students to understand proper academic practice in computer science. The policy is not meant to be a substitute for common sense. Students acting ethically and responsibly should not be at risk of reprimand.

By definition, a scholar employs a command the knowledge of current literature in creating new knowledge. This notion of scholarship is not limited to research, but also extends to regular academic work. Books, poems, essays, even songs and logos, are the creations of a particular author or group of authors. When information or knowledge is derived from such artifacts, scholarly practice requires acknowledgment of their sources.

In computer science, intellectual property includes, but is not limited to, algorithms, data structures, flowcharts, programs, software and hardware designs, database schemas, and protocols. A student’s assignment solutions, exam answers, and all other elements of assigned projects also fall into this category. Any approved use of these materials should be properly cited. Use of materials not explicitly approved by the instructor can be considered cheating.

Instructors will report any suspected infractions for investigation. Allegations of academic misconduct regarding undergraduate students should be reported to the Honor Council, whereas such allegations for graduate students should be reported to the Dean of the Graduate School. Students should report suspected infractions to the instructor, or to the Honor Council or the Dean of the Graduate School, as appropriate.

In order to help guide students as to how to follow these policies, the Computer Science faculty has created the following explanation of common practices. This is not a complete list, and students should always discuss any doubts or questions they have with the course instructor.

Acceptable Practices

Students should feel free to use all resources specified as acceptable by the instructor. Use of course material, such as textbooks and other assigned readings, does not have to be cited. If the instructor allows students to find and use other material, that material must be cited. For assignments, citations can be written as usual, with footnotes or endnotes. For programming assignments, citations should be written in the comment blocks at the beginning of the main part of the program, or at another logical, visible place as is appropriate.

For assistance in preparing their submissions (i.e., completed work) for exams, projects, or assignments, students should obtain help only from the instructor or designated teaching assistants. Students should not discuss with anyone other than these people regarding the design, modification, or correction of any intellectual property described above. If the instructor lets students consult others, then that consultation should be cited.

However, it is permissible to seek help from others under certain specific conditions. Students may obtain help to learn how to use the computing facilities and to find the location of specific assignments or instructional material. Students may also seek assistance in understanding language-specific programming constructs and special features of a programming language’s implementation. It is acceptable to seek help identifying specific syntactical, compilation, or run-time errors. Students may ask for help in the three aforementioned areas only if assignment-related issues are not discussed. One safe method of getting help with programming problems is to construct a small program separate from any assignment that uses the construct in question, and then obtaining help with that program. The student can afterward transfer what is learned to the assignment on his or her own. In these cases, it is correct to cite what help was received and from whom.

As a matter of best practice, students are responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of their work. This means that they should collect print-outs of assignments; delete assignments from public machines when finished working on them (including emptying the ‘trash’ or ‘recycle bin’); not leave work visible on public systems where others can peruse it; and ensure that files on shared systems are appropriately protected. These measures help protect the student against charges of misconduct if their work is misappropriated.

There are certain courses that promote group work, particularly where learning team collaboration is inherent to that specialization (e.g., software engineering). Although students must follow the same practices as stipulated above with respect to external sources, they must take particular care to understand the instructor’s course policy on group work. In many cases, collaboration is allowed within the team, but not outside the team. For group projects, students must perform their share of the work and must understand that in many cases grading is collective.

Unacceptable Practices

There are several actions that clearly violate the Honor Code. Students must never misrepresent themselves by submitting intellectual property that is in part or in whole the work of another individual. Students should consult only the files, books, or the Internet as directed by the instructor. Students cannot copy or collaborate on algorithms, designs, or solutions unless specified by the instructor. Sharing solutions with other students or gaining access to files belonging to other students is strictly prohibited by this policy. Again, before engaging in any questionable action, students should consult the instructor.

Individual Course Policies

Although this honor policy serves as the default honor policy for the Computer Science Department, students should be aware that the policies of individual instructors might build on or even override, this policy. However, the instructor’s policy will always be consistent with the honor policy of Georgetown University. It is the absolute responsibility of faculty members to make their course policies clear and available to the students of their courses. It is the responsibility of the student to read each course’s policy and abide by its practices. If an instructor does not provide a course policy, then this departmental policy is the de facto policy for the course.