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For a project, I noticed really around an hour or so before my deadline was due that some of my graphs lacked units when I labeled the axes. In the interest of time, I decided to add units to the plots manually using photoshop. The deadline has now passed, and I’m worried if this is considered academic misconduct or something. The data I used complies with the labels I gave the graphs manually, and I haven’t done anything to change my data in any way with the image editing program other than to simply add the units of some of the labels. The only thing I’ve done is to write the axes labels myself instead of telling Python to.

I can’t find any policy on this on my university website. Should I be worried? Could this be considered falsification of data or some other form of academic misconduct), even if the units I’m adding are literally the appropriate units?

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    I'm not sure why you think it would be. Photoshop is a tool like any other. Unless it was a pure python programming assignment, of course.
    – Buffy
    Apr 24, 2020 at 23:52
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    @Buffy The assignment was coded in Fortran with plots meant to be made in Python. I made all the plots, but forgot to add units when typing in the x and y labels for a few of them. Some plots have them where I remembered (as it’s not like I simply don’t know how to add the labels), and for the ones that didn’t I added it manually. I literally just added “(m)” next to “x” and “y” for the few plots I did this to. It’s not like I’m getting around the fact that I don’t know how to label the plots or something.
    – user73202
    Apr 24, 2020 at 23:54
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    Best to be upfront about it when you submit, I would think. Safer.
    – Buffy
    Apr 24, 2020 at 23:58
  • @Buffy The idea of that scares me greatly in case it would result in me being punished.
    – user73202
    Apr 25, 2020 at 0:05
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    Anyone care to explain the close votes? This is clearly generalizable. Apr 26, 2020 at 2:15

2 Answers 2

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My interpretation of the question is:

I was told it is unethical to photoshop my data. Is it ethical to use Photoshop software to make a graph?

The choice of software used is completely irrelevant to the ethics of any scientific image. You can use python, Photoshop, or crayon. If the image is drawn correctly, it is okay.

If the contents of the image is false, that is never okay. It is much worse if it is deliberately false. When people say it is unethical to photoshop, they mean that it is unethical to lie. They do not mean you cannot make truthful images using the Photoshop brand software.

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  • From a practical point of view, Photoshop is not a good tool for working on graphs. Apr 26, 2020 at 2:23
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    My interpretation of the question was different. It was that OP was asked to use Python to make the graph (the assignment was assessing his proficiency with Python), and he was worried that altering the output in Photoshop would be viewed as academic misconduct.
    – PersonX
    Apr 26, 2020 at 4:21
  • @PersonX Maybe, the question does not indicate. If the goal is to teach python, judging students by the units on their graph labels seems misguided. If the goal were to teach data analysis, it would be make a lot of sense. Apr 26, 2020 at 4:50
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It depends on the nature of the assignment. If the assignment required you to use Python to produce these plots, and you were being evaluated by how well you used Python, then yes, altering the output later in Photoshop and not disclosing such could be considered academic misconduct. Based on the comments to your post, it sounds like you did disclose this to your professor, in which case you haven't committed misconduct.

If the assignment was just to produce plots, but you weren't being evaluated on your proficiency using a specific software, then I would completely agree with this other answer that there is no issue here.

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