Academic Integrity

Purdue has adopted an Honor Pledge for all students:

As a Boilermaker pursuing academic excellence, I pledge to be honest and true in all that I do. Accountable together - we are Purdue.
Students are expected to honor this pledge.

What is academic integrity?

Simply, it is a matter of being honest. It means you do your own work, without prohibited assistance or shortcuts, and you truthfully present the results. It means that if you do use the work of others, you credit it properly. It means that you do not unfairly damage or impede others in their own academic pursuits.

The opposite of academic integrity is cheating or academic dishonesty. This is defined as any action or practice that provides the potential for an unfair advantage to one individual or one group. Academic dishonesty includes misrepresenting facts, fabricating or doctoring data or results, cheating on assignments, representing another's work or knowledge as one's own, disrupting or destroying the work of others, or abetting anyone who engages in such practices.

The CS department has produced a video about academic integrity that you are encouraged to watch:


Why do we care? Why is it important?

At the heart of scientific pursuits is the quest for truth. We value the exposure of what is true, and we seek to discern the truth from what is false. Science proceeds from verification of results, from the proper credit for discovery, and from rejection of the false. Computer science, as a profession, demands that we seek the truth not only in our research, but in our dealings with the public, and with each other. We must constantly build and maintain the trust of a public that depends on our expertise and honesty to construct their computing infrastructure. Competence and trust are at the core of what it means to be a scholar (in general) and a computing professional (in particular).

More specifically, we value academic integrity because:

How do you tell if something is a violation of academic integrity?

As one simple test, if what you are considering doing was to be announced in a gathering of everyone in your class, your family, and all your instructors, would you be embarrassed or penalized? If so, don't do it!

Students are encouraged to read Academic Integrity: A Guide for Students from the Purdue Dean of Students office for greater detail. Here are some of the examples of academic dishonesty listed in that guide:

Note that those are examples and do not describe everything that may be cheating. See the more formal definition, above.

What if I'm having problems in class? What if I'm going to fail unless I use an "unauthorized shortcut"?

Your instructor will treat the students (you) as computing professionals, and the students should plan on conducting themselves in an appropriate manner. Each course presents many important concepts that may be needed throughout a career as a computing professional; it is important that each student do all the assignments and learn the material without improper outside assistance or shortcuts (cheating).

Instructors realize that there are occasions when students are overloaded, overstressed, or otherwise unable to do the work required for a class. If you feel too burdened to be able to complete any assignments in any class, you should talk to the instructor or to your advisors. We are here to help you learn and succeed, not to try to make you fail. In many cases, an extension can be granted or extra help can be provided. Faculty are almost always willing to make allowances for real difficulties: that is one of the responsbilities of teaching. It is also a fact of life — we all encounter difficulties at some time or another. At the least, most instructors seem willing to grant partial credit — thus, your situation sometimes isn't as bad as it seems.

The key to succeeding and staying out of trouble is to talk to your instructors/advisor as soon as you think you are having a problem — don't wait until you are near a deadline or are really in deep trouble. Students who honestly try to do all the work almost never fail: instructors reserve failing grades for people who don't try, or who are dishonest.

That exposes a downside to attempts to be dishonest: If you are caught being dishonest (cheating, plagiarizing, falsifying results, helping others to be dishonest) the penalty is much worse than getting a bad grade. Sometimes it means a failing grade, but it may also result in being suspended or even expelled from the university. What's worse — explaining to your family and friends why you only got a "C" in a course, or explaining why you have been expelled?

By the way, your instructors have likely been teaching for a long time — sometimes for longer than you have been alive! They have a vast amount of experience in recognizing academic dishonesty. They also sometimes build hidden traps into assignments and exams to expose cheating. You think you can fool your instructors? Maybe, possibly once, if you are very lucky … but even that one time is a huge gamble to take with your future.

What if I know someone else is cheating?

First of all, it is not your job to play detective and investigate if you suspect something. Doing that can violate the privacy of others, as well as possibly violating university rules.

If you suspect someone you know well of dishonesty, you can try telling him or her to stop. However, some people will attempt to entangle you in their dishonesty, to spread the blame if they get caught, so usually it is better to not confront them. A sad way to find out someone is not the friend you thought is when they blame you for something you didn't do.

The best approach for anything you see or even suspect is to privately tell your instructor, an advisor, or another member of the faculty about it. Stop by during office hours, or send an email. Some of your instructors will publish their phone numbers, so you can call, too. You should not simply remain silent — remember, cheating by others hurts you, too.

If you wish to report incidents of academic dishonesty (or other student misbehavior) to someone other than (or in addition to) an instructor, you can do so via the forms at the Dean of Students page for reporting. You can report anonymously at that site. You can also report incidents directly at the office of the Dean of Students, by telephone at 765-494-8778, or by email to <integrity@purdue.edu>.

What if I am accused of cheating and I didn't do anything?

First, don't get too upset, because you know it is an error. Sometimes instructors make a mistake. Schedule a meeting with your instructor to talk it over. Be honest, respectful, and present whatever information you think will help. Don't talk about it with other students until the issue is resolved — you don't know who else might be involved, and you don't want guilty parties using your information against you!

If discussion with the instructor doesn't clarify the matter, talk to your academic advisor or another member of the faculty for advice. You can also make an appointment with the head in the department that offers the course.

There is a formal process for appeal of final grades, but you must begin it no later than 30 days from the start of the following semester.

The best defense is to know the rules for your courses, and be careful not to do anything that comes too close to violating them.

Checking for Unintended Copying

If your course uses the Blackboard online system, you may be granted access to the SafeAssign tool. If you are, you are encouraged to use this to check your own papers and assignments prior to submission to ensure that you have appropriately quoted and cited text from other sources. Note that this does not check all possible uses of other text — it is intended to be a convenience to the student. Students are still responsible for the content of anything they submit, and are therefore responsible for any plagiarized material even if it passes SafeAssign!

Purdue University Department of Computer Science Academic Integrity Policy

Approved: Fall, 2003

The Department of Computer Science expects and enforces the highest standards of academic integrity and ethics. The Department takes severe action against academic dishonesty, which may include failing grades on an assignment or in a course, up to a recommendation for dismissal from the University.

Academic dishonesty is defined as any action or practice that provides the potential for an unfair advantage to one individual or one group. Academic dishonesty includes misrepresenting facts, fabricating or doctoring data or results, representing another's work or knowledge as one's own, disrupting or destroying the work of others, or abetting anyone who engages in such practices.

Academic dishonesty is not absolute because the expectations for collaboration vary. In some courses, for example, students are assigned to work on team projects. In others, students are given permission to collaborate on homework projects or to have written materials present during an examination. Unless otherwise specified, however, the CS Department requires all work to be the result of individual effort, performed without the help of other individuals or outside sources. If a question arises about the type of external materials that may be used or the amount of collaboration that is permitted for a given task, each individual involved is responsible for verifying the rules with the appropriate authority before engaging in collaborative activities, using external materials, or accepting help from others.

A student accused of academic dishonesty must be afforded due process as defined by Purdue University procedures. The Dean of Students Office may be notified concerning an academic dishonesty incident as provided by Purdue University procedures.