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Collaboration on homework, take-home projects and in labs is an extremely gray area for many students. What is acceptable collaboration in one class is often labeled cheating in another. Although the line between cheating and collaboration might seem clear to instructors, students often need to know where those lines are.

Use written guidelines to explain:

  • When can they work with peers and when can they not work together?
  • If students can work together, what is acceptable collaboration and what is not? Telling students that they can work together but must turn in their own solutions is often confusing; show students what that looks like.
  • What are the expectations on take-home exams and assignments?
  • What tools (calculators, software, web resources, and so on) are acceptable for assignments and what tools are not?

Sample Statements Regarding Collaboration

Homework Policy from CSE 260, "Mathematical Foundations of Computer Science" (Jean Gallier)

You are permitted to discuss the homework problems with other class members with the following limitations. These discussions are to be limited to high-level concepts. You are not permitted to copy or share written work or implementation details. It is understood that the work that you submit may be based on these discussions but has not been either copied directly from another student's paper nor is it, in part or in whole, the product of impermissible collaboration.

Homework Policy from PHY 101-910 "Classical Physics" (Paul Heiney)

You are encouraged to study with other students, and to discuss questions on the homework assignments in general terms ("do you understand what we're supposed to do on Problem 5?"). However, the work you turn in should be your own—you should not divide up the work so that one student does problems 1-5, the other 6-10, and then copy from each other. All numerical calculations should represent your own work.

Obviously, any form of copying or cheating on quizzes or exams is strictly forbidden. In general, you should abide by Penn's Code of Academic Integrity.

Assignment policy from LING 205-507 "Introduction to Syntactic Theory" (Beatrice Santorini)

If you find it helpful to collaborate on assignments, I strongly encourage you to do so. However, you should write up and hand in your answers individually. Otherwise, neither you nor I can reliably gauge your understanding of the material.

If you work with other students, please indicate at the top of your assignment who you worked with.

On the exams, you should work independently in accordance with Penn's Code of Academic Integrity.

If I have reason to believe that your behavior is violating this code, I will contact the Center for Community Standards & Accountability (CSA) to initiate an investigation. I have contacted the CSA a few times in the past, and in all but one case, the CSA found that the code had indeed been violated.

If the CSA finds that you have violated the Code of Academic Integrity, you will fail the class. You may be able to retake the class, but as far as I know, the grade you receive on the retake will not replace the original F.