I created a new account and posted a question on Math Stack Exchange asking help for a specific part in an exercise from class. It was duly answered.

That question went on to gain a lot of hits and I received an email notification which I had set, of a comment left by a person who said I was stuck too. I didn’t know him as the class strength is around a hundred, but on checking on social media, he turned out to be my classmate. Now with nearly eighty hits on it, presumably from my classmates looking at this problem, should I delete it because I feel that Turnitin would end up holding me guilty for plagiarism from my own content if other students post it before me?

I did attach my files and everything including the idea which should easily enable anybody else from my very class to use it in the assignment.

So is it wise for me to delete the question now or is it too late? Is it ethical for the community at Math Stack Exchange to lose a question that garnered so much attention and I did gain my share of points. Will I lose my points as well?

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    You can't delete even your own question if it has an answered voted up by anybody, or if it has multiple answers. But you can ask the site to disassociate the question from your account. There is some chance that the community will close your this question, saying that you should ask it on the meta.stackexchange.com or on math.meta.stackexchange.com , in this case do it.
    – peterh
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 17:09
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    @peterh: Dissociating would increase the risk of what OP is worried about and eliminate the best evidence that OP is not guilty of plagiarism. Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 16:23
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    You mean to reduce other peoples' plagiarism right? Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 22:41

3 Answers 3


From what you have reported, it does not sound like you have committed plagiarism, i.e., you have not claimed the work of anyone else as your own work. So you don't need to worry about that---and if other people steal your work, that is their fault and not yours.

You might, however, also be concerned that you have broken a class policy on obtaining outside help, and that you might be exposed by others plagiarizing you. If you have not broken class policy, then don't worry about it. If you have broken class policy, then 1) don't do it again in the future, and 2) trying to hide it probably won't help you, since this site gets widely copied and cached in any case.

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    I can’t understand whats up with “outside help”; could you elaborate on how you understand it? Is going to library considered as “outside help”?
    – Kyslik
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 21:08
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    @Kyslik Some classes have policies about the type of help that is considered acceptable and unacceptable. This would usually be in the syllabus or similar document. For example, there might be rules about what work you can do as a group and what you must do on your own. If the class doesn't have a policy like that, then it doesn't apply. Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 22:55

You asked the question, and you received the answer originally. Other people copying from the same question should not be a problem to you.

What you should do when receiving help online though is making clear to whoever does the grading that part of the exercise was solved using help by someone else (by citing them/linking it).

In case there will be an aftermath, you will be able to prove you were the one asking that question, since it is linked to your account.

Depending on class you did the exercise for, you might get a worse grade when doing so, but it is the right thing to do.


OK. Sounds like a bit of an interesting situation you got here. If a classmate turns that answer in before you, your best option here would be to explain to the teacher your situation. You posted a question on a well-known site, and it received a lot of attention, eventually attracting some of your classmates, who probably didn't even know you posted it. In this case, they have (most likely unknowingly) committed plagiarism, as defined here:


  • To steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own

  • to use (another's production) without crediting the source

  • to commit literary theft
  • to present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source - Plagiarism.org

If this happens, just set up a time to talk with your teacher and calmly and clearly explain that to them. If they are a reasonable teacher, they will understand and you can go from there. Good luck!

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