I've been accused of plagiarising an answer to a math problem. The incompetent professor pulled a problem off the internet, aka googled it. We had an open note, open book, open everything exam. I googled the problem and answer, and wrote in the answer. Now the professor is accusing 3/4 of the class of plagiarising the exam question? How can you plagiarise a math question/answer? I don't even believe it was cite worthy math solution? Clearly the problem was more difficult than 2+2=4, but the correct answer is solving a mathmatical problem, so how can that be plaiarism? please help...

closed as off-topic by Brian Borchers, David Ketcheson, Anyon, Buzz, eykanal Oct 23 '18 at 15:46

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    The opinion of the crowd here on academia.stackexchange.com really doesn't matter much- you're facing a disciplinary process in which someone will make the decision as to whether or not it is possible to plagiarize a solution to a math problem and if so, whether or not you are guilty. FWIW, I've had students found guilty for exactly this, so it's not unheard of. – Brian Borchers Oct 23 '18 at 14:34
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    It's plagiarism because you didn't give credit to the original source. There is a separate question of whether it was cheating; that depends on the rules of the exam. Academia.SE isn't really the place to decide this, as @BrianBorchers says. – David Ketcheson Oct 23 '18 at 14:38
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    Hmmm. If you had to google to learn that 2+2=4 then you should probably cite it. – Buffy Oct 23 '18 at 15:27
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    This suddenly seems like more of a rant than a question. You seem to have a lot of contempt for your professors. It isn't a good formula for success. Maybe he just wants you to learn some mathematics. Finding a solution, even understanding the found solution, isn't anything like solving the problem. Only the latter will make you a mathematician. Who was "infinitely lazy" here? – Buffy Oct 23 '18 at 15:36
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    Thanks all, I realize with limited context, hard to respond. I did work the solution to validate the answer..Do you trust everything on the internet? GoodNews! The lazy prof backed off (if 15 of his students took this matter forward, it wouldn't bode well for him, he concluded that he can't prove anyone plagiarised or if they just did the problem as intended. ). Buffy got me thinking, since one does NOT need to cite 2+2=4, the same holds true for a math problem that is easy enough to complete without google help. Lesson learned: don't back down from an academia power tripper. :-) – Dan Josephs Oct 23 '18 at 19:23

The instructor may not have very good practices, of course. But if the rules of your course or university say that you can't use "found" solutions then you have broken that rule. That is distinct from plagiarism, but might be tagged as such.

But yes, you can plagiarize pretty much anything. It is presenting the work of others as your own. Normally, if you need to present the work of others it is also cited with the source. If you did that, then it isn't plagiarism at all, but it still might break the rules.

Let me add that professors don't ask students to solve problems because they need the answers. The entire purpose is to generate growth in the understanding of the students. The professor can likely solve any problem himself/herself, until you reach the doctoral research stage. Reading solutions isn't the same as solving problems. You will never advance by only reading the work of others. The professor probably understands this.


...professor pulled a problem off the internet...I googled the problem and answer, and [used] the answer...

That sounds like you plagiarised. But,

We had an open note, open book, open everything exam.

So, it boils down to the precise rules that were defined for the exam.

  • As you would expect there were no precise rules provided, which is typical with most sloppy professors. The only thing which was said, not written, is that we can use whatever you would like...??? so, if the problem is simplify the expression 3x + 4y = 12, would I have to cite that since the answer is a math equation following already determine math rules...? I almost believe the professor set us up so that he can pound on his chest, but whats the point? – Dan Josephs Oct 23 '18 at 14:49
  • @Buffy I meant the OP plagiarised, not the professor. (That's what the question is about, right?) I edited to clarify – user2768 Oct 23 '18 at 16:04
  • @DanJosephs The university surely defines precise rules. (Professors merely implicitly adopt them.) – user2768 Oct 23 '18 at 16:06

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