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I am a University student.

I had some course work which I had to submit. This work is a computer program, a very large codebase. Due to technical reasons, which are entirely my fault, I submitted the work but there were some very minor mistakes: I forgot to upload a small and very trivial code piece which the program cannot compile without. Because the program cannot compile, I suppose that it can be considered a more serious mistake or a grey area. The professor can definitely arrive to making this minor corrections from his end, but I do not think that it is fair for me to expect that out of him.

I was thinking to contact the professor via email about this. Or to wait some days to contact him in person (and later email him) to inform him of my mistake and also to submit the missing file.

I was wondering how acceptible this approach is, or if there are some general University regulations or procedures which I have to look into before even approaching my professor?

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Contact your professor. First, stop trying to trivialize your error - it's big enough that your code won't compile, so it's a serious error and that's that. If the assignment marking requires them to run your code, then you are assured to get a 0 for code that doesn't compile, so you've honestly got nothing to lose here. If, on the other hand, it's marked by hand without running it, then you need to address the error and how it happened. This is especially an issue if you showed output from a previous version of the code - you submitted code that clearly didn't produce that output, and that can sometimes be construed as academic dishonesty.

Your professor has probably been around long enough (read: a few days) to understand that undergrads sometimes submit code with errors accidentally. Perhaps they submitted the previous version by mistake, or fixed "just one little thing" and forgot to test it. You would not be the first such student, and usually the professor will not get angry about it.

However, all of this being said, this doesn't mean that the prof needs to actually do anything about it. Depending on their particular style, you might get ignored. For instance, if everyone had the same deadline and it has long since passed, then submitting a correction is probably not something that the prof will allow - what evidence does this professor have that you didn't spend extra days perfecting bad code and now are ready to submit it?

But to answer the original question - these sorts of requests are made all the time, and it is unlikely to affect you negatively. The longer you wait, the worse this gets.

  • It's not required that they run my code, but for completeness I believe it is always better to submit a compilable program as you also seem to indicate. There is evidence that I didn't try to perfect my code after submission; it is very trivial. Yes, I tried to fix "just one little thing" without testing. I didn't show output from a previous version and there is proof of this. How shall I go about my interaction? How do I indicate to my professor that I don't want to have an unfair advantage over others? Is it better to contact in person or in email? – fehisipo May 30 at 2:24
  • Be honest about what happened, but don't grovel. You made an error, say so. "Hi, after reviewing my code I realized that I omitted XYZ.cpp. This would cause it to not compile. I want to make sure that you receive a working version, and I also want to make it clear that I know the error was mine. I've attached XYZ.cpp to my email. In the future I'll be sure to more thoroughly examine my submission. Please let me know if it is acceptable to you that I've submitted this file, and if you'd like to discuss it further. Thank you." – Michael Stachowsky May 30 at 2:28
  • Also, in the future (and putting on my "programming instructor" hat here), there is no such thing as "one little thing". Any change in your code requires testing. at a minimum this means recompiling it, but you also need to run thorough tests of all code affected. Imagine what happens if you changed "one little thing" in an autopilot in a function that only ever triggers in an emergency, but you did it backwards - you converted from meters to cm by dividing by 100, say. Didn't notice the error, but now it's a serious safety concern. – Michael Stachowsky May 30 at 2:31
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    Indeed. Also, seriously don't panic. Mistakes happen. Admitting your mistakes is a sign of a mature student. Your professor is unlikely to even think this is odd, and most likely will just roll his eyes and move on as a worst case scenario. – Michael Stachowsky May 30 at 2:32
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    Most of the time it is more important to recognize that a mistake happened and fix it and any root causes than it is to assign blame. This is true outside of academia as well as inside of it. As long as you learned how to try to avoid this in the future, you will not gain anything by beating yourself up about it :-) – Michael Stachowsky May 30 at 2:36

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