The use of copied software in the Computer Science Department
Adopted by Computer Science Subdepartment, February 27, 1997
Plagiarism involves taking ideas or other forms of intellectual effort and passing them off as one's own [Guralnik, 68]. A specific example of plagiarism is using a program found in a textbook as your solution to a programming assignment, i.e., without mention of the original author and source of the program.
The issue of plagiarism is of particular concern in the Computer Science department, due to the importance placed on the creation of computer programs in most courses. According to University regulations, sanctions for students who engage in plagiarism can be quite serious. These sanctions may include the awarding of a failing grade to the student, and, in the most serious cases, the expulsion of the student from the University. Since most definitions and guidelines relating to plagiarism refer to works in written and spoken language, the faculty members in the Computer Science Department believed it would be helpful if they interpreted some of these guidelines within the context of computer programming.
The Indiana University Code of Student Ethics provides the following definition of plagiarism as part of its discussion of academic misconduct [IU, 93, p17,]:
A student must not adopt or reproduce ideas, words, or statements of another person without an appropriate acknowledgement. A student must give due credit to the originality of others and acknowledge an indebtedness whenever he or she does any of the following:
- Quotes another person's actual words, either oral or written
- Paraphrases another person's words, either oral or written
- Uses another person's idea, opinion, or theory
- Borrows facts, statistics, or other illustrative material, unless the information is common knowledge.
We can interpret the above as meaning that when using programs and program fragments of others, or when using programs based on the ideas, theories, or algorithms of others, one should give due credit to the originator of these intellectual efforts.
The balance of this note will discuss how due credit is to be given, what kinds of things one is permitted to copy (with a brief discussion of copyright law), and when there might be a conflict between copying another's code and the educational objectives of an assignment.