If you post an assignment question on a 3rd party site and get no answers about the subject matter, is it still considered cheating?

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    This is called “unsuccessful cheating”. – dmckee --- ex-moderator kitten Jun 26 '19 at 5:36
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    Most cheating policies specify "attempting to cheat", so if you had received answers you would have used them... – Solar Mike Jun 26 '19 at 6:13
  • Asking for help (i.e. showing your work and where the issue lies) I feel is totally acceptable. Asking for the solution is unacceptable (and more forums will generally not help someone who just wants answers). I would never have passed my advanced physics courses without Physics StackExchange. – Shinobii Jun 26 '19 at 14:09
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    Just to be sure we're not in some kind of endless loop here, is this an assignment question in an ethics class you're taking? – dwizum Jun 26 '19 at 17:29
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    If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? – henning Jul 4 at 18:43

At my university, the answer is definitely yes. The rules here clearly state that even the attempt to cheat is misconduct (e.g. bringing a device that is capable of cheating to an exam is considered cheating even if it not used/touched).

(However, if asking a question about your assignment in some forum is cheating, depends on the rules for your course/institution. In my courses, this would not be forbidden for homework assignments, for example.)

  • Second paragraph here is important. The word "assignment" (as opposed to "exam") suggests to me an exercise in which some degree of conferring with others is permitted. – Daniel Hatton Jul 4 at 18:08

Yes. As one example of a formal policy, here is the opening definition in the CUNY (City University of New York) Academic Integrity Policy:

1.1 Cheating is the unauthorized use or attempted use of material, information, notes, study aids, devices or communication during an academic exercise.

Exact penalties will, of course, vary by institution, department, instructor, etc. In my courses, such a case on a homework assignment would result in a zero on the assignment, and a report to the school's Academic Integrity officer (who may lay out further penalties for repeat offenders). On an exam in one of my courses, this would now be an immediate failure of the course for the semester.


Yes, attempted-but-failed cheating is still unethical/immoral, though perhaps less so (?!?) than successful cheating.

Attempted-but-failed (bad thing) X is bad, but not as bad as succesful X?

Certainly attempted murder (even if unsuccessful) is a serious crime most places.

Really, how much "moral currency" do you get back by trying but failing? Sympathy points?

  • Someone on another question was trying to argue that attempted cheating was not as bad as successful cheating in the same way that an attempted crime was not as bad as a successful crime. I think this is the wrong analogy. The problem with a crime is the damage that results from it, and potential damage is less serious than actual damage. In the case of cheating, the "damage" isn't the outcome of the cheating, it's the dishonest intention because it creates a culture of dishonesty. It's pretty much irrelevant whether or not the cheating succeeded in the goal of getting a better grade. – Elizabeth Henning Jul 5 at 1:05
  • @ElizabethHenning, I wouldn't argue with you at all... I guess I should have made the point more explicitly that (in my opinion) intent to engage in unethical/immoral behavior is still unequivocally a bad thing (whether or not one fails...) and whether or not one thinks that intent and so on are real or not... Probably my real issue is with the world-view/mindset of the person asking such a question. "I tried to embezzle money, but I failed, and maybe got caught... Did I really do such a bad thing?" – paul garrett Jul 5 at 1:23
  • ... and, yes, the whole worldview/mindset in which contemplating (for other than recreational/venting purposes) doing anti-social things, hoping not to "get caught", etc., is a problem in itself. So, yes, a worldview in which it somehow makes sense to ask the question is already morally/ethically failing/flawed. – paul garrett Jul 5 at 1:25

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