Collaboration in the creation and sharing of knowledge is encouraged and often necessary. Nevertheless, it is important to distinguish between collaboration and plagiarism. Plagiarism is the misappropriation of another person’s thoughts, transcripts, inventions, or discoveries combined with the (possibly implicit) claim that they are one’s own.
Plagiarism is a controversial topic, especially when homework and examination tasks are set and worked on in the field of education. When working on an assignment, students may use only those methods and working techniques explicitly or obviously assumed to be permitted when the task was set. Since adherence to the methodological framework is the responsibility of the student, the examination regulations and/or the teaching staff must clearly define whether an assignment is expected to be solved in the form of group or team work or as individual work.
For examination related assessment tasks set by the Chair of Programming Systems, there are the following four possible assumptions about the methodological way of working:
- Solutions are the sole work product of a student.
- Solutions are the sole work product of a delimited and known group of students who submit a common solution.
- Solutions are the sole work product of a student who has discussed basic issues of understanding the assignment with others, but is solely responsible for the submitted work product.
- Solutions are the sole work product of a student who based her/his solution on the course material.
Students are informed as part of the assignment which of the above processing rules applies. (Explicit notification may be omitted if the applicable examination regulations already specify the processing rules). If third persons or third persons’ material are involved in solving the task aside the processing rules, this must be explicitly indicated in the submitted solution. Students are required to inform the teaching staff if they co-create their solutions with others or quote from others. Omission is plagiarism.
If a possible case of plagiarism is discovered, the individuals involved will be questioned about the matter by the faculty member responsible for the course and a faculty member not involved in the case. If it is determined that a case of plagiarism has occurred, the following actions will be taken:
- In the case of fraudulent collusion: the submitted work product will be evaluated by the teaching staff, taking into account plagiarism, and downgraded (even to failing the task).
- Students should be aware that this downgrading may result in failure of the exam and they may possibly be denied admission to further exams.
- In the case of copying a third party’s work product in whole or in part without the third party’s consent: the submitted work product will receive 0 points and a grade of failure, and the student will be reported to the executive committee for disciplinary action in accordance with applicable regulations. This may result in civil or criminal penalties. Unauthorized copying of data is just one of the computer-related offenses that are severely punishable (including multi-year prison sentences) under the applicable criminal law. If a student believes that his/her work has been stolen, he/she must immediately inform the teaching staff.
It is especially easy to copy electronically stored files; but it is also easy to detect that copying has occurred. The department of computer science applies software in order to detect copied files.
Common cases of plagiarism are:
- the absence of references to sources or to third party material not yet published,
- copying third party material without marking it and attributing it to the rightful author,
- collaboration of several students on one work product and submission of (almost) identical answers (unless teamwork has been explicitly allowed),
- copying a third party’s work product in whole or in part (unless teamwork has been explicitly allowed).
If the solutions are submitted in the form of computer programs, it is important that each student develops the structure of the program itself. Structure means arguments and purpose of procedures and functions, data structures, as well as the program logic, which in turn is determined by the sequence of instructions, conditional statements and loops. It is not acceptable to copy someone else’s program and merely substitute variable names, for example, to disguise plagiarism. It is usually a case of plagiarism when programs have identical or nearly identical structures, or when program structures foreign to the problem have been introduced merely for camouflage.
Students are advised to consult the specific working rules of each course in part, as policies may differ.